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Monday, December 19, 2011

WE HAVE A WINNER!

Thanks to so many people for entering the Margo Petitti Scarf contest!  

Because of my, ahem, senior moments and the hectic holiday season,  I had erroneously posted that the drawing would be held on Saturday, December 18th.  In follow-up emails, I listed the drawing date as Saturday, December 19th.  Of course, since today was actually the 19th, the contest was held over and Margo chose the lucky winner today.

Congratulations RALPH DONNELL, you are the winner!  I've just emailed you and as soon as you respond with your shipping information, your wonderful OSCAR scarf will be shipped to you.

Thanks to the many people who entered the contest and also visited Margo's booth at Grand Central Station. They're still working daily and will be on site until the holiday fair closes on December 24th.

A special thanks to Saloma Furlong for mentioning the contest on her blog.  A BIG thank you and hug to Margo for giving me the chance to run this contest again.  It's wonderful fun!

We all love this season, but it's so much work!  We're almost in the home stretch, so take a deep breath, enjoy your family and plunk yourself down with a good book.  I'll be back right after the 25th with a ton of reviews of great books, so stop back soon.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 21, 2011

CELL 8

by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom - to be released January 2012

John Meyer Frey was sentenced to death at the age of 17 in Ohio.  Tried as an adult, he was convicted of brutally murdering his girlfriend Elizabeth Finnigan.  John steadfastly proclaims his innocence and is befriended by guards and fellow prisonsoners during his decade on death row.

Edward Finnigan, Elizabeth's father, longs for the day when he can watch John Frey die.  He feels cheated when Frey dies of heart disease before he can be executed, and he's unable to let go of the grief and hatred that have consumed his life.

Fast forward a few years and John Schwarz, a singer on a ferry between Finland and Sweden is arrested for violently attacking a drunken ferry passenger.  Detective Inpsector Ewert Grens of the Stockholm Police is intrigued when the police begin to realize that Schwarz has been living in Sweden under an assumed name.  As dogged an investigator as he was in THREE SECONDS, Grens won't rest until he knows Schwarz's real identity.  As the facts come to light, reaching all the way to the United States, Grens finds himself in the unusual position of trying to keep a criminal from being extradited to a country that condones and enforces the death penalty.

Inspector Grens is almost as solitary as he was in THREE SECONDS, but it's heartening to note that Roslund and Hellstrom have given more depth to this likable character in CELL 8, as he begins to enjoy life a little more.

CELL 8 is a fine mystery, but it's more than that.  It's also a thought provoking discourse on the death penalty and of the politics and machinations involved in extradition between countries with differing views of this form of punishment.

ISBN 978-1-4027-8715-7
Pub. Date:  January 3, 2012
376 pages
Hardcover and eBook

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Second Annual MARGO PETITTI SCARF CONTEST!

It's that time of the year and I'm so lucky to once again have an original MARGO PETITTI SCARF to offer to one of my blog visitors!

Nothing to do, nothing to buy, just email your name to PetittiScarf@aol.com for a chance to win this year's scarf.

The winning entry will be chosen by the designer at her booth at the Grand Central Station Holiday Event in New York City on Saturday, December 18th at 2:00 pm.  The scarf will be shipped to the lucky winner in time for Christmas.


Margo Petitti is a young fashion designer from Rhode Island who currently has a booth at the Grand Central Station Holiday Event in New York City.  Ms. Petitti's scarves are all one of a kind and are handmade in the USA.

This year's scarf is the OSCAR as shown, an individually designed patchwork scarf.  The front is an arrangement of cashmere, silk and fine wool patches made from Italian suiting fabrics.  The reverse is 100% cashmere with a herringbone weave.  Ms. Petitti's "M" logo monogram can be found in the lower left corner.  It measures 10 inches wide by 80 inches long and retails for $250.00.

You can visit Margo's booth at the Grand Central Event which is open every day until December 24th (except Thanksgiving) from 10 am until 8 pm.  If you visit Grand Central, please be sure to tell her hello from me!

Ms. Petitti will also be in Chicago at the ONE OF A KIND CHICAGO SHOW from December 1-4, 2011.

She's has a busy year and was featured at the VIP LOUNGE AT THE EMMYS this past September in Los Angeles.  This is just a sampling of the celebrities who chose one of her gorgeous scarves.

We have a special connection to Ms. Petitti; she's engaged to our son Bill.  If they hadn't met, I might have missed the chance to own one of her wonderful designs!

Thank you, Margo, for providing us with another beautiful scarf this year.  And thanks to all of you for visiting my blog.

Don't forget to enter to win!

Don't be shy!  Email your name to PetittiScarf@aol.com and you'll be instantly entered into the contest.  Last year's winner was Michael Tonello, author of BRINGING HOME THE BIRKIN.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

THE LITIGATORS

by John Grisham

One morning David Zinc, a young, highly paid and overworked attorney, realizes he's tired; tired of the rat race of his high powered job and envisioning the bleak future in front of him.  He just can't face another day.  Despite imminent deadlines and to the astonishment of some of his co-workers, he literally dives into the elevator at his office building and leaves, heading for the nearest bar.  David isn't even a drinker but he spends the day getting plastered and finds himself at the offices of Oscar Finley and Wally Figg, a pair of ambulance chasers in a seedy section of Chicago.

Finley and Figg are barely eking out a living and what little they bring in, Wally manages to spend chasing rainbows and searching for that big lawsuit in the sky.  Putting David to work as his assistant, Wally thinks he's really found it this time.  It appears that people are dying of heart attacks after taking a drug to reduce their cholesterol.  Pounding the streets to find new victims of the drug, Wally ties the firm's wagon to a class action lawsuit that's bigger than anything the firm has ever dealt with before.

Happier than he's been in years, David, meanwhile, is trying to bring in work of his own before his dwindling savings disappear.  He's also come across a case that could have larger implications, but Finley and Figg won't even consider it, hoping that any settlement from the cholesterol drug case will make them financially vibrant.

This is the old John Grisham who kept us riveted to our books and it's a pleasure that he's back.  He's injected tension, mystery, great characters and courtroom drama into THE LITIGATORS, along with a heavy and healthy dose of humor, which makes his newest book a fun and delightful read.

Don't miss this one, it's definitely worth the money!

ISBN 978-0-385-53513-7
Pub. Date:  October 2011
400 pages
Hardcover and eBook

Saturday, November 12, 2011

GREAT HOPE SPRINGS?

In August, I went to a casting call for extras for GREAT HOPE SPRINGS, a movie being filmed in part in Stonington, Connecticut. Even though they're filming in Connecticut, the movie is set in a small town in Maine and features Steve Carell, Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. Never having done anything like this before, I thought it would be interesting to even see what a casting call was like now that I'm in my sixth decade.

The crowd wasn't as large as I had anticipated at the local high school and I was in and out in just over an hour, talking briefly with the casting director and leaving my name, phone number, brief resume (including anything we felt could be used as a prop for the movie) and the all important head shot. Pretty fun, never going to get a call, but still an interesting way to spend a morning.

I was more than surprised when I did receive a call from Barbara McNamara Casting in NYC on September 22nd, asking me to email a photo of my car to them.  Not me, only my CAR, my 2000 VW Beetle, cute little BUGger that it is!  Well, I was in New Jersey but my car wasn't so my friend Doug agreed to take a picture of my car for me and I quickly emailed it to the casting company.  And then I didn't hear from them at all.  Okay, still a silly, fun adventure.

Then on September 28th, I did receive a call to see if I'd like to be an extra on September 29th.  Would I ever!!  I grabbed my friend "C" and off we went, tearing up the blacktop on 95! 

We arrived in town to find things transformed!  There was a faux movie theater, faux chocolate and hardware stores, a billboard of a map of the town with everything renamed and off-kilter, and my favorite restaurant, Noah's, had been transformed into the Nor'easter Lobster Diner!  Pretty exciting!

The next day was nothing like I expected.  I had to report to a local church at 10:00 am with my car and three changes of clothes.  We were instructed to bring dowdy clothing, nothing urban, black, designer or fancy.  They specifically asked all of us if we had any "mom" jeans.  Well, I'm a mom and I definitely own jeans, but "mom" jeans?  Who would admit to even owning MOM jeans, no matter what your age or your size?  So I put on a pair of khakis, a blue button down shirt and sneakers and off I went, in my VW, toting another two changes of clean, ironed clothes. 

I checked in and received a time sheet to fill out and took a seat at one of the folding tables, along with about thirty other people.  It was a typical church hall with fluorescent lighting which makes everyone look pretty grim.  As each of us were filling out our cards, the wardrobe crew was circulating around the room looking over our clothing.  The room quickly began to look like the end of the day at a garage sale after all the customers had ripped everything apart or like your teenager's room, minus the apple cores under the bed.  Suitcases, tote bags, duffel bags split open with shoes and clothing strewn everywhere! 

When it was my turn, the wardrobe person turned her nose up at everything I had brought with me, stating that I looked "too preppy", normally not a bad thing, right?  But for this movie they wanted us to look like we just came in from plowing the back forty and didn't have a sense of style even in our off time.  All right, fine with me, as the woman hunted around and found a very used man's fishing vest and a dirty, faded plaid flannel shirt for me to use.  Interesting that they held my time card for ransom until the end of the day when I could have it back when I returned the clothing.  Yeesh, I couldn't WAIT to give the stuff back!

Okay, I thought, we're on our way!  My clothes were approved and I was ready to get to work.   HA!  If I only knew.  I was still sitting and talking to the people around me when the 11 am people came in.  I wandered over to the snack table and was very curious because we've all heard about the "kraft food service" for movie crews.  Another big HA!  There was one folding table with a couple of boxes of Entenmann's donuts, snack size bags of chips and Cheetos, a few pieces of fruit and bottles of water.  Stacked next to the bottles of water were two large jugs and I figured they would be filled with juice or coffee, but nope, just more water. 

When the 12 noon extras arrived, someone finally spoke to us as a group, explaining what the movie was about and how we should act around the stars.  We weren't to speak to them, approach them, ask for autographs or even make eye contact; especially Tommy Lee Jones.  Also, all of female extras were instructed to tone down our makeup if we were wearing any and to remove our lipstick.  At this point, I was mentally reverting to the language of the sixties and all that came to mind was, "FAR OUT", this was like the twilight zone!  Did movie people really think that no one in Maine has any sense of style and that they all only dressed in vintage and distressed L.L.Bean clothing with not a stitch of makeup or hair not pulled back into a sloppy ponytail?

Noon seemed to be the last check in time for extras and no one had been asked to leave the room to go anywhere yet, so we still just sat.  Just as the crew cracked open a jar of peanut butter and jelly and some standard supermarket white bread, the 9:00 am people were asked to stand up and about a dozen were chosen for a scene.  Almost forgot, SAG members first.  SAG being Screen Actors Guild Members, the rest of us were referred to as non-SAG.  Surprisingly, a lot of the extras in the room were SAG and had done this before.  I have to admit that I can't imagine why.  Sitting in that church basement in ratty clothing, no air conditioning on a toasty day, with body heat building up, it felt more and more like being called for jury duty or sitting in a large hospital emergency room waiting area.  That same feeling of ennui, boredom and restless leg syndrome was setting in for everyone. 

But I'm a good sport and this is a new adventure, so I went back to reading my book and waiting.  About 1:00 pm some of the 10 am SAG people were picked for a scene, and the rest of us were given some instructions about filling in our time sheets (don't really know if that's what they're called, but it's as good a choice as anything else).  Different hours and different pay for SAG versus non-SAG.  SAG members would be paid $142 for up to eight hours of work (or waiting) and non-SAG would be paid $100 for up to twelve hours of work.  If you were asked to bring a car, you'd receive extra money even if they didn't use it and you'd also receive extra money for changes of clothing you were asked to bring (even though mine were deemed inappropriate).  Then the young man explained that the 10 am people (of which I was one) would receive a waiver and would receive SAG wages.  Don't know why and didn't ask, it was okay with me. 

Around about 2:30 pm, we were all told that they weren't choosing anyone else and that we could leave as soon as we returned any borrowed clothing and handed in our time cards.  And that was it.  Even though I never got close to a movie star or camera, I could actually say I worked a day as a movie extra. 

Some of the seasoned SAG members were grumbling that they were letting us go just before the time that they would legally be required to feed us a proper meal, but I thought it was all good, and I was happy to go off with my friend for a late lunch.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my friend "C" not only got to watch a scene being filmed, but also got to see Tommy Lee Jones up close, just a few feet away.  RATS!  When I received a phone call the next day to be an extra, I just ignored it and my friend and I went to T.J. Maxx.  I received another call to be in a "featured scene", whatever that is, but I called back too late and was told that they were all filled up. 

All in all it was interesting, even if it was boring.  The only complaint I have has to do with the paycheck I received for my day of work in late October.  They added in all of the extras just like they had explained, but along with the regular deductions, they also withheld money for something called "medicare".  Now I don't know if this was because I was paid SAG rates, but I sure hope they don't think I'm old enough to be eligible for MEDICARE yet!  I wonder where in the ozone that little deduction went? 

I'm looking forward to seeing the movie when it's released late in 2012.  It will be fun to see how our little town was transformed into a small town in Maine.  I had GREAT HOPES about being a movie extra, and while it was interesting, I can definitely cross that one off my bucket list!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

ALL I DID WAS SHOOT MY MAN

by Walter Mosley - to be released January 2012

Leonid McGill is back, trying to right some of his earlier wrongs.  Years ago, he helped frame Zella Grisham for a $58 million dollar robbery; just another job he was hired to do.  He didn't know her, but he knew she was already in trouble for shooting her boyfriend Harry Tangelo when she found him in bed with her best friend, Minnie Lesser (could this character's name be any more diminutive?!).

McGill seems to have renewed his acquaintance with his conscience and he's set out to restore a more normal life to Zella.  Under the guise of working for her attorney, they manage to get her out of jail and McGill provides her with money, housing and a job.  But Zella's release triggers all manner of chain reactions, people are dying and suddenly even McGill's life and the lives of his family members are threatened.

In this latest from Mosley, it's a pleasant change to find Leonid so introspective and involved with his family, lovers and his past misdeeds; a tough guy with a really soft heart.  Mosley's smooth and fine writing make ALL I DID WAS SHOOT MY MAN an absolute delight to read and doesn't disappoint, despite a complicated plot that becomes too murky with too many characters.   

ISBN 978-1-59448-824-5
Pub. date:  January 2012
336 pages
Hardcover and eBook

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

THE BOY IN THE SUITCASE - A Nina Borg Mystery

by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis - just released

Nina Borg's life is a busy one.  With two children of her own, her job is to help people; working as a nurse for a secret organization that provides medical care to illegals. When she agrees to meet her longtime friend Karin for lunch, Karin begs her to fetch a package from a public locker at the Copenhagen train station.  Unwilling to explain what's in the locker, Karin's parting words send Nina down the rabbit hole.

Nina discovers a drugged and naked young boy in a suitcase inside of the locker.  The boy, Mikas, is unable to speak Danish and when Nina discovers that Karin has been murdered, she doesn't know where to turn or who or what she's running from, trying to stay a step ahead of some very dangerous people searching for Mikas.

Another woman is equally desperate; Sigita Ramoskiene, a Lithuanian woman, wakes up in a hospital, the victim of an apparent alcohol overdose.  She doesn't have any memory of what happened to her and discovers that her young son Mikas is missing.  The tension builds as Nina struggles to identify and protect the boy, while miles away Sigita frantically searches for her son .  Unknown to each other, both women become deeply immersed in the horror of human trafficking.

THE BOY IN THE SUITCASE is a taut and satisfying Scandinavian thriller.

ISBN 978-1-56947-0
Pub. Date:  November 2011
313 Pages
Hardcover and eBook

Friday, October 21, 2011

NEW JERSEY NOIR

Edited by Joyce Carol Oates - to be released November 2011

This is a selection of brand new short stories and poems by some of our favorite authors. With over 50 books published in the "Noir" series, it was nice to find that the newest is set in New Jersey.

Being from New Jersey, of course I'm partial to our state and NEW JERSEY NOIR does not disappoint.  Forget the wonderful farms in south Jersey and the rolling hills, lakes and mountains in the north, this book is the turnpike of New Jersey; a seamier and scarier vision.

I expected that more of the authors would actually be from New Jersey, but with stories from the likes of S.J. Rozan, Lou Manfredo, Robert Pinsky and Alicia Ostricker, crossing state lines was not a problem.  Not a fan of poetry, but having grown up in Newark, I found myself calling friends to read parts of C.K. Williams' thought provoking and poignant NEWARK BLACK: 1940 - 1954.

Thoroughly enjoyable, NEW JERSEY NOIR is a wonderful compilation; you can't miss with this one!

ISBN 978-1-61775-034-2
Pub. Date:  November 1, 2011
280 pages
Available in Hardcover

Sunday, September 11, 2011

THE VAULT - An Inspector Wexford Novel

by Ruth Rendell - to be released late September 2011

When four bodies are discovered  in an underground chamber below a London house, local detectives are unable to solve the case.  The police elicit the aid of retired Chief Inspector Wexford to help solve the mystery.

Reginald Wexford and his wife Dora are splitting their time between a guest house on their daughtter's property in Hampstead and their own home in Kingsmarkham.  Still adjusting to retirement, Wexford is more than happy to assist the local police.

Despite trying not to step on  Det. Superintendent Tom Ede's toes, Wexford finds himself more and more intrigued by this new case.  No one seems to know when the door from the inside of the home to the basement was covered over, but it's a major link to the timeline for when the bodies became entombed.  It adds to the puzzle when it's determined that one of the bodies has been underground in the vault for a much shorter time.

Wexford and his wife are also dealing with a major family drama and his daughter and grandchildren have taken over their home in Kingsmarkham.

While Rendell has a huge fan base, I found THE VAULT to be quite slow and plodding and lacking excitement.

ISBN978-1-4516-2408-3
288 Pages
To be released later in September 2011
Hardcover and eBook

Saturday, September 10, 2011

PRIMACY

by J. E. Fishman

Liane Vinson is an animal researcher working at Pentalon, a secret animal research facility on Long Island.  Her workday includes driving through a crowd of animal rights protesters outside the facility.

Although the researchers are not supposed to become attached to their charges, Liane has a particular fondness for two young bonobo apes; a brother and sister.  She discovers that these two apes can actually speak, something unheard of in the world of animal research.

Keeping the apes' talent secret, Liane is determined to protect the two, and she enlists the aid of her friend, veterinarian Mickey Ferrone.   As bodies of her coworkers being to pile up, Liane and Mickey are on a worldwide race to find the origin of the two bonobos and a way to save them from extinction.

PRIMACY is a pleasant read, but too similar to others written by the likes of Michael Creighton or Robin Cook.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book, but Barnes and Noble is only featuring it as a Nookbook, so I'm not sure if a paper copy is available.

ISBN 978-0-9833809-0
390 Pages
Pub. Date: August 2011

THE GOOD FATHER

by Noah Hawley - to be released March 2012

Dr. Paul Allen is the chief rheumatologist at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.  He spends his working days investigating patients' symptoms to discover their underlying illnesses.  

When his son Daniel is accused of killing a rising political star slated to be the next president of the United States, Allen is unable to believe that Daniel is guilty, and employs the same investigative skills to try to prove Daniel's innocence despite overwhelming evidence.

Told mostly through the viewpoint of the father, we follow Paul's determined path to love and support his son, the product of his first marriage.  His continued inability to accept even the possibility of Daniel's guilt puts incredible strain on his second family, even as his career is disintegrating.


THE GOOD FATHER is interspersed with flashbacks to real-life famous or infamous assassinations from the '60s to present day, as well as Daniel's journey leading up to the shooting.  Coupled with the love and guilt carried by the father, Hawley has written an emotional story that's not easily forgotten.


ISBN 978-0-385-53553-3
320 pages
Pub. Date:  March 2012
Hardcover and eBook

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

SUMMER UPDATE

Hi, everyone, hope you're all good and if you're on the east coast, hope Irene didn't cause you any harm. 

This has been a hell of a summer!  This is my second summer blogging and reviewing books and, just like last summer, August seems to be my blog vacation.  I've been staying at my summer home in Connecticut and we had a lot of guests including my friend Sue from Delaware.  Our sons and their significant others came for visits, and we spent time with our Stonington friends, too, creating new memories.

On August 19th, my husband and I were one of four families who hosted a progressive cocktail party for approximately seventy five people.  George planned on arriving in CT on the 17th to help with the preparations, but work prevailed and he was still stuck in Friday traffic on Route 95 mid-way through the evening.  Luckily I was able to work the phones and quickly had magical elves to help put everything in perfect order for the event.  (Thank you Pete, Beanie, Dana and Lyndsay!)  The house was sparkling, the garden was "fluffed", there was plenty of wine and food and everyone seemed to enjoy the evening.  It was a lot of fun but by the time the last guest left, I was more than ready to kick off my shoes and flop!

Unfortunately, about fifteen minutes after the cocktail party ended, I received a phone call that my brother had passed away.  Although we hadn't been close in recent years, Bob was my hero and champion when we were growing up and he'll always have a special place in my heart.  Four days later, we had an earthquake that could be felt along the entire east coast, and I couldn't help but feel it was from the stamping feet and cheering to welcome Bob into Heaven. 

Just three days later we started preparing for Hurricane Irene.  We boarded up the windows, checked our flashlights and stocked up on water and food, all ready for Irene.  Who knew that we'd have more damage in New Jersey than in Southeastern Connecticut!  But we're still without power and don't know when it will be back on.  Our cell phones wouldn't work at all until today, and here I sit in a hotel in Mystic at 11:30 pm, totally grateful that our family and friends survived the storm without too much difficulty and and are all safe.  I have to admit that I'm really grateful that we could take nice hot showers, too!

I have a stack of books that I've finished reading and hopefully the power will come on soon so I can get back to my computer.  I think I've had enough of this vacation and I'm definitely ready to get back to work reviewing! 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

FLASH AND BONES - Temperance Brennan Series No. 14

by Kathy Reichs - to be released August 23, 2011

Charlotte, North Carolina is hosting a major NASCAR event.  When a body is found lodged in a drum of asphalt at the dump adjacent to the Charlotte Motor Speedway, Dr. Temperance Brennan is part of the team.

While working on the case, Tempe is visited by Wayne Gamble, a pit crew member, whose sister disappeared with her boyfriend years earlier.  Gamble is worried that the victim could be his sister Cindi or her boyfriend Cale Lovette.  At the time of the couple's disappearance, Lovette was involved with the Patriot Posse, a right wing extremist group.

To complicate matters further, lab reports indicate that the unidentified man in the barrel died of ricin poisoning, a deadly toxin, and an employee of the CDC has gone missing.  Suddenly, the FBI is all over the case and has whisked away the body, as well as all the autopsy samples and reports.   But  this won't stop Tempe, who is working individually with both Charlotte Detective Erskine "Skinny" Slidell and Cotton Galimore, a disgraced former police officer who is now head of security for the Speedway.  She's determined to solve both the disappearance of the young couple, as well as determine who was found in the barrel, and how or if the two cases are connected.

Reichs' has created quite a mix for Tempe in this latest novel.  She's been recruited by her ex-husband and his finance to help solve their pre-wedding spats.  Currently without a love interest, Tempe finds herself attracted to one of the new people in her life.  She's finally letting her hair down a little and spouting expletives, which makes her character more likable and human.

FLASH AND BONES is a nice new offering from Kathy Reichs that not only provides the reader with a good mystery, but also covers the history of NASCAR.

ISBN 978-1-4397-0241-1
Pub. Date:  August 23, 2011
288 Pages
Hardcover and eBook

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

CHILDREN AND FIRE

by Ursula Hegi

Thekla Janson is a young school teacher in Burgdorf, Germany during the early days of Hitler's rise to power.  A caring and gifted teacher, she has a sweet disposition and finds something lovable in even the most annoying of her ten-year-old students.  They, in turn, love her dearly.

Janson has taken over the class from Ilse Abramowitz, a Jew.  Janson revered her old teacher and thinks about her often, but doesn't visit, fearful of repercussions.  She has no real affinity for the wave of patriotism permeating her country, yet encourages her students to become members of the "Hiltler Jugend" or Hitler Youth for the camaraderie and friendship.  Thekla is aware of the dramatic changes in Germany, but adopts a "go along to get along" attitude and is able to hide her head in the sand and continue with life as she wants it to be, both for herself and her students.

But there's so much more to this latest book from Hegi.  Janson is just a symbol of how fear and propaganda, fomented by Hitler, eroded the moral fabric of Germany, one person or one child at a time.  It's only when Janson discovers a secret in her own family that she begins to open her eyes and see the horrors for herself.

A number of years ago I read STONES FROM THE RIVER by the same author.  That book, like this one, stayed with me.  Hegi has a quiet, intelligent and understated writing style, yet still manages to vividly convey the chilling reality of her characters' lives and the insidious erosion of family, freedom and humanity in the landscape of Nazi Germany.  CHILDREN AND FIRE is another unforgettable book from Ursula Hegi, not to be missed.

ISBN 978-1-451-60829-8
Pub. Date:  May 2011
288 pages
Hardcover and eBook

Sunday, July 24, 2011

THE REDBREAST - Harry Hole Novel No. 1

by Jo Nesbo
Translated by Don Bartlett

Inspector Harry Hole has somehow embarrassed the department.  As punishment, he's assigned to surveillance of neo-nazi activity in Oslo.

Expecting this to be a dull and annoying assignment, Harry is soon knee deep in murders; someone is targeting disgraced old solders and using an old, rare gun to do it.  Travelling back decades, THE REDBREAST reflects on the Norwegian government's collaboration with the Nazis during WWII, a dark period for Norway.

I came to this series more than a little late and read the Harry Hole novels completely out of order.  That said, THE REDBREAST was still wonderfully written, and is a compelling mystery from Jo Nesbo.  I do recommend that you start with this one if you're going to venture into this series, to better appreciate the interaction of the characters.

Pub. Date - 2000 and 2006
ISBN 978-0-06-113400-5
512 pages
Available in paperback

Friday, July 22, 2011

HOT WATER

by Erin Brockovich with CJ Lyons - to be released October 2011

AJ Palladino and her partner, lawyer Elizabeth Hardy, run a consumer advocacy business in AJ's hometown of Scotia, WV.  Despite AJ's misgivings, they've just been hired by Owen Grandel to put a positive spin on his company in Colleton Landing, South Carolina.  His high tech nuclear facility has the ability to create much needed medical isotopes in a safe environment, but the company has been plagued with unexplained accidents, and has run into serious problems with various factions protesting the facility.

Single mother AJ has more than just work to deal with.  Her nine year old son David is a genius who is struggling with cerebral palsy.  Her mother is agoraphobic and a hoarder.  AJ's elderly Gram is diabetic as well as being blind, and requires a full time caregiver.

While AJ struggles with the job requirements and the threat of a nuclear disaster in South Carolina, her devious ex-father-in-law has hired a hit man to eliminate any obstacles in the way of him getting permanent custody of David. Luckily AJ has Ty Stillwater in her corner, a sheriff's officer who is in love with her.

All of the story lines collide in this fast paced and explosive novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat! HOT WATER is well written and very entertaining.

ISBN 978-1-59315-684-8
Pub. Date: October 2011
288 pages
Hardcover and eBook

Thursday, July 21, 2011

PRECIOUS OBJECTS: A Story of Diamonds, Family, and a Way of Life

by Alicia Oltuski - just released

Precious Objects is an inside look at the diamond industry. Ms. Oltuski's family has long been involved in the diamond trade, both in NYC and Europe.

From the mines in South Africa to Nazi Germany to the streets of New York, the author takes the reader on a decades-long and fascinating journey.

Focused mainly on the 47th Street diamond district, the author details transactions ranging from original handshake deals right up to the age of the internet and its impact on the diamond trade.  We learn of the birth of the Rapaport Diamond Report and are introduced to a fascinating cast of characters, as well as the dangers of their chosen occupation.

Nonfiction, Precious Objects reads like a novel and is a delight to read.  Ms. Oltuski deftly weaves her rich family history into the fabric of the diamond trade.

 ISBN 978-141-654512-5           
Pub. Date: July 2011
368 pages
Hardcover and eBook

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

LAZY SUMMER DAYS

I apologize to my faithful followers for not creating more reviews and posts this month.

When I'm at our summer home, time just seems to get away from me.  I have visits with friends and family who come to stay with me and long lunches with local friends, and before I realize it, I haven't blogged in two weeks.

With sunsets like these as seen through the door of my small office, it's hard not to just enjoy the surroundings and spend more time outdoors.

I have been reading a lot and I'm finally back to my computer, so hopefully you'll enjoy some good reviews in the coming days.  Don't be surprised to see more than one review on the same day until I plow through the backlog of books that I've read; I'm really not reading at the speed of light like Harriet Klausner.

I hope your summer is going well and that you, too, are enjoying time with family and friends, good books and lazy afternoons.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

SMOKIN' SEVENTEEN - A Stephanie Plum Novel

by Janet Evanovich

Stephanie Plum and her coterie of odd friends are back in this latest from Janet Evanovich.  When a dead body is found on the bail bonds lot, the office moves into Mooner's RV.

Stephanie and Lula try to apprehend skippers with their usual slapstick style and frequent bakery stops, while Stephanie's mother is foisting a former classmate on her as perfect husband material.  When more people turn up dead with Stephanie's name on them, it's starting to get personal.

This latest book in the series finds Plum sleeping with both Joe Morelli and Ranger after Joe's Grandmother Bella turns the evil eye on her, and she continues to destroy cars provided by Ranger at an alarming rate.

I like Evanovich's writing style.  I like the characters in the Stephanie Plum series.  I like the humor in Evanovich's books.  But I have to say that SMOKIN' SEVENTEEN was the same old, same old with just a little more sex.  Stephanie Plum is getting a little long in the tooth to continue the same lifestyle and inability to commit.  Although it's a fun, quick read with quirky characters, this book wasn't much different from SIZZLING SIXTEEN or the one before that, which is a real disappointment.

Pub. Date - June 2011
ISBN 978-0-345-52768-4
320 pages
Hardcover and eBook

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

THE ICE PRINCESS

by Camilla Lackberg
Translated by Stephen T. Murray

Author Erica Falck has returned to her small hometown in Sweden to settle her parents' estate.  On top of her grief over the loss of her parents, she is under a deadline for the biography she's writing.  Taking a break to go for a walk, Erica is hailed by Eilert Berg, the caretaker for the home of her childhood friend Alexandra, a successful gallery owner.  Berg has just found Alex dead of an apparent suicide.

When Erica visits Alex's parents, they are insistent that she would never have taken her own life, and they ask Erica to write a memorial article about their daughter.  Her research into Alex's life brings her in contact with an unusual and large cast of characters including Alex's husband Henrik, Anders, a severely depressed artist, and Francine, Alex's sister.

Erica is spending time with Dan, an old school boyfriend, much to his wife's unease. She's being pressured by her sister Anna and her brother-in-law Lucas to settle the estate and sell the family home; even while she worries that Anna is an abused wife.  To further complicate her life, Erica finds herself attracted to Patrik Hedstrom, the detective handling the investigation into Alex's death.  As Erica and Patrik dig deeper into Alex's life, long hidden family secrets begin to surface, leading them on the trail of the murderer in this Swedish thriller.

THE ICE PRINCESS is a quick read that spends too much time on the personal and romantic relationships and not quite enough on the story.   A bit disappointing, it doesn't have the same intensity as most of the books I've read by other Scandinavian authors.

Pub. Date March 2011
ISBN 978-1-4516-2174-7
416 pages
Paperback and eBook

Saturday, July 2, 2011

ROGUE ISLAND

by Bruce DeSilva

Someone has been setting fires in the Mount Hope section of Providence.  People are dying and the police and arson investigators aren't making any progress in catching the firebug.

Investigative reporter Liam Mulligan is devastated by the senseless death and destruction in his childhood neighborhood.  It starts to become personal when people he cares about are seriously injured.  Despite threats to his own safety, Mulligan is spending his time following the paper trail of just who benefits from the fires, a long and arduous road that takes him through the underbelly of Providence's mobsters and crooked politicians.

Mulligan (as he prefers to be called) is a busy man.  His ulcer is acting up.  He's been assigned the task of taking the publisher's son Mason under his wing, and he's not thrilled.  He's also cultivating a romantic relationship with fellow reporter Veronica Tang, while still dealing with his crazy, soon to be ex-wife.

Mr. DeSilva has created a likable character in Mulligan and I hope we'll be seeing more books featuring this ace reporter.  The grittiness of Rhode Island's long history of political corruption serves as the perfect backdrop for this terrific debut mystery.

Pub. Date June 2011
ISBN 978-0-7653-2981-3
304 pages
Paperback and eBook

SNIPPETS

We all hear them, snippets of other people's conversations. The interesting thing about snippets is that you catch just enough of someone else's conversation to spark your interest.  Depending on what you hear, you may try to complete the thought or even wish you could follow the person down the street to hear the rest.

I was sitting in the small guest room that doubles as my office at our summer house in Connecticut yesterday.  The room fronts on our busy street and since it was a gorgeous day, I opened the outside front door to enjoy the breeze.  A lot of people walk by our house on their way to the point where the beach is located, or to visit the lighthouse museum next door.  The point is a great place to visit: standing on a peninsula in Connecticut, you can see Rhode Island to the east, islands of New York to the south, while taking in a 270° panorama of Fishers Island Sound.

Back to yesterday.  The first comment I heard was, "You can correct somebody on the important things, but not things like that."   Thinking about what I overheard, I thought it made sense.  You can correct someone if they're doing something really stupid, like driving on the wrong side of the road.  But you probably shouldn't correct someone's grammar in public in front of other people.

A little later in the morning a couple walked past the house and all I caught of their conversation was,  "She's got a lot of boyfriends, but who's the father?"  Even though I was totally immersed in writing a review, I found myself daydreaming about the couple and what I had heard.  Was it their daughter?  A friend?  Would the person need a paternity test to find out who the father is?  I'll never know, but I found myself trying to complete their story in my mind.  If it was the first sentence of a novel, I would definitely find it intriguing enough to want to know more!

My husband made the flag gate for me as a birthday gift a few years ago.  I love it!  Thanks, honey!

Friday, July 1, 2011

TRICK OF THE DARK

by Val McDermid - to be released September 2011

Psychiatrist and psychological profiler Charlie Flint's pivotal testimony at Bill Hopton's murder trial allowed him to go free.  Charlie's professional life is now in limbo because Hopton murdered four people after his acquittal, and she has been suspended from practicing while an investigation into the circumstances is ongoing.

With time on her hands, Charlie is contacted by Corinna Newsam, one of her old professors at Oxford, and agrees to look into the murder of her daughter's husband.  Philip Carling was bludgeoned to death at his wedding reception and his business partners have been charged with the crime.

Charlie is married to her life partner, but after seven years she's not sure she's still committed to Maria.  She's very attracted to Lisa Kent, a self-help guru. While trying to decipher her own emotions, Charlie learns that Carling's young widow Magdelena is involved in a lesbian relationship with Jay Stewart, an author who also attended Oxford.  The more Charlie learns about Carling's death, the more convinced she is that his partners are innocent.  As she delves into the past, she begins to unravel the deadly trail left by the murderer; a twisted trail that leads all the way back to Oxford.

TRICK OF THE DARK is an intricate and explosive tale of deadly secrets and murder.

To be released September 2011
ISBN 978-1-932859-95-9
400 pages
Hardcover and eBook

Monday, June 27, 2011

DOMESTIC VIOLETS

by Matthew Norman - to be released in August 2011

Tom Violet is working in a job that he hates, for a company that he isn't even sure what exactly it is that they do.  Although he really considers himself to be a writer, having worked on his novel for the past five years, he lives in the shadow of his very successful father, author Curtis Violet.  To add to Tom's angst, he has a serious performance problem in the bedroom, despite being happily married to Anna.

While Tom is sidestepping Anna's advances one evening, their young daughter Allie knocks on the bedroom door to let them know there's a burglar in the house.  Tiptoeing downstairs, Tom finds his father, who been locked out of his home by his current wife. When Curtis announces that he has just beaten out his arch rival and is going to receive the coveted Pulitzer Prize for fiction, it's just the beginning of the end of Tom's life as he knows it. 

To add to the dysfunction, Tom's mother and stepfather are on the outs, Tom hates his immediate boss and he spends way too much time fantasizing about his sexy young coworker. 

Mr. Norman has created a wonderful and poignant story from the total chaos of his characters' lives.  Amazingly funny, intelligent, insightful and offbeat, I found myself laughing out loud and reading entire pages to my husband while reading this thoroughly enjoyable book.

What more can I say!?  You need to buy this one! 

To be released August 2011
ISBN 978-0-06-296511-7
320 pages
Paperback and eBook

Sunday, June 26, 2011

FINALLY GETTING CAUGHT UP!

I'm finally getting caught up on reviews of the books I read while on vacation earlier this month but didn't get to post.  You'll find two new reviews today and I still have nine books sitting on my desk waiting.

I'll be posting new reviews every day this week, some current bestsellers and some not yet released, so please stop back to find the perfect summer reading.

Thanks for your patience.

THE DEVIL'S STAR - A Harry Hole Novel

by Jo Nesbo
Translated by Don Bartlett

When a young woman is found murdered in Oslo with a tiny red star shaped diamond under her eyelid and a finger missing, Harry Hole is assigned to the case.  When the finger of a woman reported missing is found with a ring embellished with the same type of red diamond, the team realizes they're dealing with a serial killer.

Unfortunately, Harry is partnered with Tom Waaler, someone Harry doesn't like or trust.  Harry has long believed that Tom murdered his friend and former partner, which makes working together nearly impossible.  But Harry has no choice because he is barely holding on to his job.  His drinking is still a problem and his one champion at work insists that they have to handle the case together because of scheduled vacations which leave the police force short-handed.

Working with Waaler and the investigation into the murders brings Harry to the brink, putting himself and everyone he loves at risk in this breathtaking mystery by Nesbo.
 
As I plow through all of the available books by Jo Nesbo, my only regret is that I didn't read them in order; in fact it seems that I've read them in totally reverse order.  As the characters change along the way, it would have been nice to be able to follow Harry Hole's relationships with his friends and co-workers.  Each of Nesbo's books is terrific by itself, but I'd recommend that you do it the right way to better understand all of the references to past events and characters.

Paperback Pub. Date February 2011 - previously published in 2006
ISBN 978-0-06-113398-5
452 pages
Available in paperback

JOY FOR BEGINNERS

by Erica Bauermeister - just released

Now that Kate has completed her cancer treatment and is in recovery, her daughter Robin reveals that she has booked Kate for a white-water rafting trip to celebrate. 
Kate's first reaction is to decline.  But when Kate's six close friends, who have been her stalwart supporters throughout her illness, gather together to celebrate Kate's recovery, Kate challenges each of them. 

In 'pay-it-forward' style, Kate has agreed to conquer her own fear of rafting if each of her friends is willing to do something they don't want to do and conquer their own fear.  The catch is that Kate gets to choose the challenge for each of them. 

We follow Caroline, Marion, Sara, Daria, Hadley and Ava as they each face the one thing they feared the most and learn about each of them along the way, as well as the bond these women have with each other.

A little predictable, JOY FOR BEGINNERS is light women's fiction. 

Pub. Date June 2011
ISBN 978-0-399-15712-7
288 pages
Hardcover and eBook

Friday, June 24, 2011

BLOG CHANGES

Now that I've reached my first milestone of 10,000 hits on my blog, I thought it was time to "freshen" up the look.  I've made some major changes to the design with my son Bill's help, and hopefully you'll all enjoy the new look of Monarch Book Reviews! 

There are a few things that need to be tweaked, but you'll still be able to find reviews of your favorite books as well as my own blog entries.

Almost forgot!  You can now click on the "F" button to the left to reach the Monarch Book Reviews facebook page.  Also there's a new link to make it easier to send me emails, so keep them coming!  I love hearing from you.

Thanks to everyone for helping me reach this milestone in such a short time.  Now, you need to turn off your computer and go read a good book!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

MURDER IN PASSY - Aimee Leduc Series No. 11

by Cara Black

Paris PI Aimee Leduc and her partner Rene are back in business after recovering from injuries sustained in a previous case.  Her godfather, Police Commissaire Morbier, has recently reunited with an old girlfriend, and he wants Aimee to pay Xavierre d'Eslay a visit to find out why she's been avoiding him.  Although Xavierre is in the middle of planning her daughter's wedding, Morbier is concerned that there may be a new man in her life.

Aimee and Rene attend the very upscale pre-wedding party at d'Eslay's home.  Instead of a joyous event, Aimee can sense the tension and before she has a chance to really connect with her hostess, Xavierre is murdered.  Morbier is soon arrested for the murder, and Aimee and Rene are determined to prove his innocence.

Not sure if anyone can be trusted, Leduc follows leads to a Basque terrorist group that has kidnapped a Spanish princess, and also to the possibility that Morbier is being framed by his own colleagues in a case of police corruption.  Along the way, Aimee also struggles with finding out more about her mother and brother; secrets Morbier has been keeping.

Ms. Black's intimate knowledge of Paris, its neighborhoods and politics add to the enjoyment of the Aimee Leduc novels.  MURDER IN PASSY is another gem in this intriguing series.

Pub. Date March 2011
ISBN 978-1-56947-882-0
273 pages
Available in hardcover and eBook

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

BURIED PREY - Lucas Davenport Series No. 21

by John Sandford

Two young girls disappeared in the '80s and their bodies were never recovered; until now.  When an older house is demolished to make way for a new condo development, the girls' mummified remains are discovered.

Lucas Davenport was just a young rookie working the case when the girls first went missing.  Twenty-five years later he's back on the case and determined to solve it this time.

Let me preface this by saying that I've read almost every book John Sandford has written, including the ones starring that "effing Virgil Flowers".  And I've enjoyed most of Sandford's books immensely.

BURIED PREY is a solid mystery, but the annoying young Lucas Davenport presented in the flashbacks to the original case detracts from the story line.  He's arrogant, self-centered and a bit of a dandy.  Lucky for us he grew up to be such an intelligent likable character or Sandford may not have had so many fans for his PREY novels.

Pub. Date May 2011
ISBN 978-0-399-15738-7
400 Pages
Hardcover and eBook

Sunday, June 19, 2011

VICTIM SIX

by Gregg Olsen

While on vacation I realized that I had read every book I brought with me.  Searching on Barnesandnoble.com, I came across VICTIM SIX and downloaded it to my eReader.  I was pretty excited since Mr. Olsen has a number of books and I hadn't read anything by him before.  I was also intrigued because Harriet Klausner, aka HARSTAN, had given this book a five star review on both B&N and Amazon.

That said, this book was so awful that I couldn't even bring myself to finish it.  Blood and gore and horrible sadistic crimes against the killer's female victims make it totally unpalatable.  I can only describe VICTIM SIX as having no redeeming value.

Harriet, what were you thinking with that five star review??!??

Pub. Date January 2010
ISBN 978-0-78602-044-7
320 pages
Available in paperback and eBook

Saturday, June 18, 2011

I'M BACK!

After a much needed vacation in Stonington, Connecticut and our son's graduation, I'm back!

I didn't really intend to take a vacation from my blog, but I was busy having fun every day with my family and friends.  Although I did a LOT of reading, I never seemed to get to the computer.

I'm back in New Jersey and hope you found a lot of great books to read in June.  Check back and you'll find new reviews every day this week of both current bestsellers and upcoming books.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

GRADUATION

Yesterday was a joyous day for our family!  We proudly attended our youngest son's graduation from the Rhode Island School of Design.  Bill earned his masters in architecture after a grueling three years.  My husband and I are finally finished with all of the costs associated with advanced learning in this country and it feels wonderful!  

But I actually want to tell you about the graduation itself.  In the bulletin sent out by RISD a few weeks back, there was a description of student attire for the event.  Being an art school, the graduating students are invited to wear the typical caps and gowns or street clothes.  They're encouraged to embellish the traditional in any way they like, and I was really looking forward to seeing some adventurous forms of self expression.  In this I wasn't disappointed.  There were mortarboards with flowers, flounces and sequins, some sported miniature furniture, a few had lights.  Some graduates wore street clothes and others were bare chested with body paint.  Some looked ready for a day at the beach and some looked like can-can dancers.  A few enterprising landscape architecture students arrived dressed as moss (I was a little confused at first since they mostly looked like Cousin It from the Addams Family).  All of this was to be expected and delightful, and none of it was offensive.

I couldn't help remembering way back when Bill graduated from Mendham High School.  He almost didn't receive his diploma because he (with our encouragement) smuggled in an inflatable turtle that the graduating class pelted into the air.  The stark contrast between that rigid and traditional commencement and the more playful and joyful commencement of yesterday was an eye opener for me. 

As parents and educators, we struggle during the high school years to get the students through safely and in some final form that can be stood up, shaken out and turned into an upright group that will be accepted at "good" schools or become newly minted members of the workforce.  We sometimes forget that not everyone is going to fit inside of the nice tidy square box we try to stuff them into.  With all manner of shapes and personalities, we literally spend so much time during the high school years trying to force all of the different shaped pegs into the same round hole.

Let's face it, any commencement is simply a costume party (the preferred costume being caps and gowns) to celebrate the successful completion of study, whether it's high school or college.  Having enjoyed the totally nontraditional RISD graduation, I can't help but wonder why we (the collective "we" of administrators, educators and parents) take such pride in removing all of the joy from commencements in high schools all across our country.  Some of the "pegs" that are square or triangular will NEVER fit into that round hole and we should be grateful that they won't!

Congratulations, Bill, we're really proud of you!

Friday, June 3, 2011

BUSY WEEK

I'm having a crazy busy week and haven't been able to blog.  I'll start back over the weekend and tell you all about our son's graduation (which is tomorrow).

I've got a backlog of a half dozen books that I haven't written about yet, so be sure to stop back to read the reviews.  Hope your weather is getting warmer and more like summer and that you have a wonderful book to read!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

THE DUCKS ARE FREE!


Exactly a week ago we let the ducks go free.  Mature enough and with enough feathers, it was time for them to learn about their new home.  My husband was in Providence helping our son assemble the pieces of his very large master's thesis presentation, so I enlisted the aid of my friend Candace.

While Candace took photos, I unhooked the end of the cage and tried to entice the ducks outside.  They just quacked and ran back inside the shed.  I went into the shed to try to shoo them outside but they still wouldn't leave the caged in area.  After about ten minutes we knew they weren't going to come outside on their own accord so I decided to wait until my husband came home to try to release them again.  For their protection, I had to close the end of the cage and hook it securely so predators couldn't trap the ducks inside.  That was my big mistake.

Let's face it, ducks are messy little creatures.  When I grabbed the end of the wooden frame to put the hinged door back on the cage, it was totally slimy.  Ewww, as you can see by my face in the photo, I'm a city girl, not a farmer, so, of course, I dropped the gate.  When I dropped it, it swung all the way down and inside the cage and whacked a big chunk off of the elaborate water system my husband had built to insure that the ducks had constant fresh water.  No more fresh water meant that the ducks would HAVE to come out of the cage.

Since I had absolutely no intention of climbing into the cage, I propped the gated end back up and Candace and I beat a hasty retreat into the house and waited to see if the ducks would come outside.  We waited, and waited, and waited some more, but nothing happened.  Without any water, the ducks would have to venture outside at some point but it was like that expression, "a watched pot never boils."

Candace went home and I went back to my book, checking every hour or so to see if the ducks had come out.  Finally, around dinner time, there was a lot of quacking and when I looked outside, our seventeen new ducks had left their cage, but now we had a new problem.  The two ducks we adopted from a family in Basking Ridge last year didn't want to share the yard or the stream with our new ducks.  They turned into total bullies and drove our new ducks into the tall grasses on the edge of the stream and wouldn't let them come out or get near the food.

It's now a week later and our cute new ducks are still in hiding and the two bullies are still "circling the wagons" to keep the newcomers from getting any food or even venturing into the stream.  I think we're going to have to catch the two adopted ducks and relocate them, so if anyone is interested in two fully grown ducks with poor social skills, just email me.  We'd be more than happy to deliver them to you.

Friday, May 27, 2011

IRON HOUSE

by John Hart

Abandoned by their mother, young Michael and Julian spent their childhood in an horrific orphanage and boys' home called Iron House.  Michael is the stronger and more resilient of the two and he becomes his brother's protector.  When Julian is bullied unmercifully and finally snaps and kills one of his attackers, Michael makes it appear that he felled the bully.  Michael runs away from Iron House and begins his new life on the streets while Julian is adopted into a good home.

In his early teens, Michael is taken in by Otto Kaitlin, a NYC crime boss, and he begins his life as an enforcer, rising in the ranks by doing as he's told and killing when needed.  But Michael meets and falls in love with Elena who doesn't know what he does.  Now that Elena is pregnant, he wants a normal life with his new family.

Although Michael has the blessing to start his life over from the ill and aged Kaitlin, others in the organization won't let that happen.  Michael knows that the mob will go after those closest to him in order to keep him in line and he's doing everything he can to protect both Elena and Julian, who he hasn't been in contact with since he left Iron House.

Adopted by a career politician and his wife, Julian has become a famous author despite suffering with a mental illness.  The skeletons in Julian's adoptive family's closets add to the stress Michael is under in trying to keep his loved ones safe and Elena at his side.

Hart has written an epic story of family love couched in a thriller.  IRON HOUSE is an enjoyable read.

Pub. Date - July 11, 2011
ISBN 978-0-312-38034-2
432 pages
Available in hardcover, audio and eBook

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

BLOG SITE CHANGES

Now that I've been reviewing and blogging for fifteen months, I know it's become a little difficult to find an older book review.  With the help of my friend and Massachusetts author Saloma Furlong (who's on her book tour in New Jersey this week), I've made some exciting new changes to Monarch Book Reviews that hopefully will make it easier to navigate your way around my blog.

You'll notice that I've added a search bar at the top of the page.  You can now enter the name of an author, a book, key words or even the name of your favorite character to find a specific book review. 

Additionally, if you type in the word "blog", you'll get a list of all of my personal blog entries. 

If you scroll down, you'll see that I've added a new feature on the left of the page that shows the most popular book reviews or blog posts.

I hope you like the changes.  Please leave a comment or send me an email to let me know what you think.  Suggestions are always welcome!

Thanks for visiting Monarch Book Reviews and happy reading.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

THE SNOWMAN - Insp. Harry Hole Series

by Jo Nesbo
Translated by Don Bartlett

One of the finest Scandinavian policemen, Harry Hole, is back is this new release from Nesbo. 

During the first snow of the season in Oslo, a young boy wakes up to find his mother has disappeared.  Outside of his window there is a new snowman wearing his mother's scarf.  Harry Hole and Katrine Bratt are investigating the disappearance when another woman goes missing during a new snowfall, and again, a snowman suddenly appears.  But this time, the killer has added part of the woman's body to his icy sculpture. 

Harry received a strange letter months earlier that made reference to snowmen and a serial killer from early in his career.  He realizes that the anonymous letter is connected to these new murders but he doesn't yet know what the connection is.  As the investigation and murders continue, it's apparent that the killer is taunting Harry personally.  With his bosses and the press breathing down his neck, the race is on to find the killer. 

Nesbo continues to paint Hole as an intelligent and intuitive investigator, but at the same time a lonely and damaged man.  Harry still struggles with his drinking problem and his relationship with Rakel is all but over.  She has moved on, but Harry is having trouble letting go, in part because of the sexual tension between them. 

Darker than Nesbo's previous novels, THE SNOWMAN is a stunning and complex mystery that deserves to go to the top of your reading list.

Pub. Date May 2011
ISBN 978-0-307-59586-7
400 pages
Available in hardcover and eBook

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A SIMPLE ACT OF VIOLENCE

by R. J. Ellory

When Catherine Sheridan is found brutally murdered, D.C. Det. Robert Miller is assigned to the case along with his partner, Det. Albert Roth.  Miller is a complicated and lonely man who has just returned to work following an IAD investigation into an earlier case.

Piecing together information from other precincts, it appears that there is a serial killer on the loose in Washington and Sheridan was the fourth woman killed.  Each of the victims was found with a ribbon tied around her neck and a paper luggage tag.  Miller's team quickly runs into a massive road block when none of the victims can be identified.  It's as if they never existed. 

Determined to find some answers in their search for the killer, Miller and Roth start at the beginning and review all four murders.  Even as the police are beginning to tie the murders to the death of a police informant during a drug sting years earlier, there are more murders.  Miller's team is quickly ensnared in an elusive game of cat and mouse with a man named John Robey, who they suspect is the man they're after. 

Concurrent with the police investigation, there is an interior monologue by CIA operative John Robey that harkens back to the Reagan era and the war on drugs that adds chilling political overtones to A SIMPLE ACT OF VIOLENCE.    

Ellory has written an intriguing mystery that will keep you guessing right up until the end. 

Pub. Date - to be released June 2011
ISBN 978-1-59020-318-7
488 pages

Saturday, May 14, 2011

SCANDINAVIAN AUTHORS

I've been reading more books from Scandinavian authors lately.  The following paragraph is a reprint from my May 4, 2011 review of Arne Dahl's new book MISTERIOSO which will be released in July:

Ever since I read Stieg Larsson's wonderful trilogy I've discovered more authors from that chilly section of the globe. Perhaps it's because of the long winters that force them indoors, or just that the Scandinavian publishing industry has decided to follow the coattails of Larsson's amazing success, but whatever the reason and lucky for us, intelligent and intricate Scandiavian mysteries have reached our shores in abundance. Jo Nesbo of Norway, the writing duo of Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom from Sweden, as well as Arnaldur Indridason of Iceland have all produced solid and enjoyable mysteries and thrillers that have been translated for the English speaking market.

I recently came across a fascinating article written by Wendy Lesser for SLATE (the online current affairs and culture magazine) which was posted May 11, 2011, entitled:  NORWEGIAN MOOD, What Makes Jo Nesbo's Books so Addictive.  Having just read NEMESIS and THE SNOWMAN, both by Nesbo, Lesser's article couldn't be more timely for me.  Of course, I read THE SNOWMAN first, which is Nesbo's latest, and had to scramble to buy his earlier books.  Apparently THE SNOWMAN is the seventh in Nesbo's Inspector Harry Hole series, but not all have been translated into English yet.  Nesbo's books are, in a word, terrific! 

I agree with Ms. Lesser's points about the intricate and satisfying mysteries coming out of Scandinavia and translated into English.  I agree that they are on average better than most other mysteries.  And yes, like many people, I was blown away by Stieg Larsson's trilogy.  But not all great mystery writers are from the Scandinavian countries.  In defense of some of my favorite mystery writers, I'd have to include books by the following authors with a proven track record of at least three books as being in the same intensely satisfying category:  Andrea Camilleri and Donna Leon of Italy, Cara Black, R.J. Ellory, Dennis Lehane and George Pelecanos of America, just to name a few.

But this is not a global competition.  Any time an author writes a deeply satisfying and intelligent mystery, no matter what country he or she is from, as readers, we all win!

NEMESIS - Insp. Harry Hole Series

by Jo Nesbo
Translated by Don Bartlett

I read NEMESIS after reading and enjoying Jo Nesbo's latest Harry Hole mystery, THE SNOWMAN (which I'll review next).

An Oslo bank is robbed and the thief holds a gun to a cashier's head.  He tells her to count to 25; the number of seconds he allows the manager to open the cash box.  When the countdown is exceeded by just a few seconds, the robber shoots and kills the cashier before disappearing with the money.

Inspector Harry Hole is investigating, joined by Det. Beate Lonn who has an interesting talent; she can remember every face she's ever seen. 

There are so many things going on in Harry's life.  His girlfriend Rakel is in Russia fighting a custody battle with her son's father.  While she's away, Harry has been contacted by a former girlfriend to get together for old times' sake.  He's determined to remain true to Rakel, but after meeting up with Anna Bethsen, he wakes up the next morning with a blinding hangover and no recollection of anything from the previous evening.  Harry's problems are multiplying and the story is heating up when he's called to the scene of Anna's apparent suicide that day.

Nesbo's intricate novel is as much about his imperfect and troubled lead detective as it is about the crimes he's investigating.  Harry is a recovering alcoholic who constantly battles his impulse to imbibe; something that is well known to police hierarchy.  He's also learning to work with Lonn who struggles with the ghost of how her father died in the line of duty.  Harry is dogged by Tom Waaler, a mean and narcissistic character and Harry's long time adversary.  Waaler wants nothing more than to take Harry down. 

Nesbo deftly weaves all of the plot lines together in a totally satisfying and intelligent mystery. 

Pub. Date January 2009
ISBN 978-1-616-83565-1
440 pages
Available in hardcover, paperback and eBook

Thursday, May 12, 2011

THE GIRL WHO DISAPPEARED TWICE

by Andrea Kane - to be released later this month in hardcover and eBook

Family court judge Hope Willis was just a small girl when her twin sister Felicity was kidnapped from their bedroom and never found. Now Hope's five year old daughter Krissy has been kidnapped and she's living the nightmare all over again.

Not satisified that the authorities can locate her daughter and against her husband's wishes, Hope contacts Casey Woods of Forensic Instincts to assist in the search. The police are also aided by psychic Claire Hedgleigh. While the police and Forensic Instincts are investigating, the family skeletons are practically jumping out of the closet.

Hope's father hasn't been seen in years but he shows up and admits he was involved in a mafia related money laundering scheme when Felicity disappeared. Hope's husband Edward has his own secrets and their nanny is hiding something as well; all of which send the investigation into different directions.

Despite the investigative twists and turns, THE GIRL WHO DISAPPEARED TWICE is a light mystery that's just too easy to figure out.

ISBN 978-0-7783-2984-8
400 pages