Saturday, April 30, 2011
Julian has moved in with single mother Annie and her two children, Dan and Rachel. Used to living on his own, Julian is trying to blend into the chaos of Annie's world as well as win over twelve year old Dan. Before their bonding can even begin, Dan fails to return home from school one day and no one knows where he is.
DECEPTIONS deals with the terrible struggle of a mother trying to cope with the loss of a child and her desperate hope that he will be found. As Julian tries to help Annie accept Dan's disappearance, she sinks deeper into herself, creating cracks in an already fragile relationship.
When Annie receives a call three years later that her son has been found, she finally begins to put her life back together. Julian is less sure that the young man is really Dan and he walks a fine line trying to find out the truth and not lose Annie in the process.
Based on a true story, DECEPTIONS is a glimpse at the horror of having a child go missing. Unfortunately for the reader, Frayn's writing and characters are not strong enough to carry this very serious subject.
Friday, April 29, 2011
Illustrated by Lisa Fenton
HANNAH'S HOUSE RABBIT is a lovely children's book written by local New Jersey author Loren Spiotta-DiMare.
Based on Ms. Spiotta-DiMare's own childhood tale of her pet rabbit, we follow the antics of Sparkles, the lop eared bunny Hannah receives for her tenth birthday.
Infused with handy hints about the care and training of a house rabbit, this is an early primer for anyone considering a rabbit as a house pet. Children of all ages will enjoy this charming tale.
Lynn's Note: My sons had a bunny named Thumper when they were young, but unfortunately due to allergies, Thumper was confined to an outdoor cage.
Saturday, April 23, 2011
THE STORY OF BEAUTIFUL GIRL is the tale of Lynnie Goldberg and John Doe Number 42, also known as Homan. It's 1968 and both are residents of The Pennsylvania State School for the Incurable and Feebleminded. Lynnie is developmentally disabled and Homan is deaf, but despite their differences and finding their own way to communicate, they fall in love.
The story begins on a dark and rainy night after Lynnie and Homan escape from the institution. They seek refuge at the remote farm of Martha Zimmer, a retired school teacher. After hiding the infant Lynnie has just given birth to, Homan is able to escape while Lynnie is returned to the school by the authorities, but not before beseeching the childless Martha to keep the newborn safe.
Not knowing Lynnie's name, Homan is determined to find a way back to The Beautiful Girl. Confined to the state school, Lynnie lives through the changes wrought by the media exposure of the deplorable conditions of these state run institutions for the handicapped in the '70s. She never gives up on her hope of being reunited with both Homan and her child.
Devoting her life to baby Julia, Martha has left the farm and relied on her former students to provide her with shelter so that the school authorities cannot find the baby. Not even knowing the names of the two people who showed up on her doorstep, she nevertheless prays that some day she'll be able to reunite Julia with her parents. Martha becomes the catalyst for change in these institutions, echoing the real life changes brought about by Geraldo Rivera's expose of the horrendous conditions at The Willowbrook School in 1972.
Ms. Simon's sweeping love story spans nearly fifty years. Her tender handling of her protagonists reflects her care and concern for her own intellectually handicapped sister. Nicely written, I enjoyed THE STORY OF BEAUTIFUL GIRL.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Picture montage by William Kimmerle
Who in the world is Harriet Klausner?
Many of you have never heard her name before, but anyone who has read a mystery book review on either Amazon or Barnes and Noble will be familiar with the name Harriet Klausner. Harriet seems to be the most prolific reader and reviewer on our planet. Legend has it that she actually left 44 book reviews on Amazon on just one day.
I first discovered Harriet's book reviews a few years ago on the B&N website. Even if I had just read and reviewed an advance copy of a book that wasn't scheduled to be published for a few months, Harriet had already left a review under the pen name HARSTAN. She certainly piqued my interest!
If you google Harriet Klausner, there are links to many blogs and web pages that question whether or not Harriet is a live person, a cottage industry, or a shill for publishers. According to an article in Time Magazine in December of 2006, Harriet reads between six and seven books a day (this is not a typo!) and receives up to fifty free books from publishers weekly. I pride myself on being a fast reader, but compared to Harriet, I haven't even reached the kindergarten reading group.
The interesting thing about the reviews that Harriet leaves on both Amazon and the Barnes and Noble websites is that almost every review receives five stars. Occasionally, you'll find one that only has four stars, but I've never ever seen less. As most of us know, not every book we read is top notch. How many times have you plunked down $25 plus dollars and, after reading the book, you feel like you've been swindled because it was so bad? Not Harriet, apparently.
It seems that in the wonderful world of Harriet Klausner, there are no bad books. A world where every single book she reads falls into the category of fabulous! It's startling when I see her five star review of a book and I'm about to enter my own two star review of the same book. When I read a book that can only be labeled a dog, I feel compelled to let other people know before they fork over their hard earned cash. The same is true for a good book. When I love a book, I feel like I need to shout it from the rooftop!
If Harriet is truly reading six or seven books each day, where is the pleasure in that? When I read a really great book, one that I hate to see end, I want to live with it for a while. I don't want to immediately break the connection with the characters or the mood; rather I want to savor the experience.
So, Harriet Klausner. If you really exist and you really do read more than 2,000 books each year, send me an email. I'd love to hear from you and interview you for my blog.
Just think about this for a moment. Harriet's photo is from the Times Magazine article of 2006. She is surrounded by mountains of books. If she were to continue to receive books at the same rate, she would have received over 11,200 books since that photo was taken. The average hardcover book weighs approximately 1.25 pounds. Therefore, 11,200 books would weigh approximately 14,000 pounds and if they were stacked on top of each other, the pile would measure about 1,150 feet tall! I hope for Harriet's sake that she isn't buried under that seven ton pile of books.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
The ducks are now just over two weeks old and they're growing by leaps and bounds! As you can see in the photos, they've doubled in size since last week. They're now twice as tall as the soda can. All of the ducks are healthy and thriving. I even got them to eat poultry feed out of my hand tonight!
I grew up in Newark, New Jersey where the yards were either non-existent, plain old dirt or cement, and not on a farm, so it's not like any of this animal husbandry is natural for me. But even for a city girl, it's pretty amazing to watch the different stages the ducks go through before they reach adulthood. I have to give my husband credit, he does one hundred percent of the work and I get to pet the ducks and take the pictures.
Our original flock of ducks seemed to work out a great system to protect themselves. They all huddled together to sleep on the stream bank, but one or two always stayed awake to guard the rest. If an animal approached, they'd signal a general alarm and suddenly all of the ducks would jump into the water, quacking and flapping their wings to drive the intruder away. Their alarm system worked for us as well, since they quack and flap whenever someone pulls into the driveway! Hopefully our new flock will have the same instincts.
Happy Easter everyone, or as Dewey, Louie, Huey and Daisy would say, "QUACK, QUACK!"
Commissario Guido Brunetti has been called to the apartment of Costanza Altavilla, a widow whose neighbor found her dead in her apartment. The medical examiner has ruled that a heart attack was the cause of death, but there are marks on Signora Altavilla's body that suggest something worse. Although it's not an authorized investigation, Brunetti cannot rest until he finds out if there was foul play.
After questioning Altavilla's neighbors and son, Brunetti discovers that Signora Altavilla has been providing shelter to battered women, as well as visiting people in a nursing home. Brunetti and Inspector Vianello are further assisted in their investigation by Signorina Elettra, the assistant to Guido's superior, Vice-Questore Patta.
Ms. Leon gives the reader a glimpse of Italian life and the political system through the eyes of her protagonist. Brunetti is a happy, complex man, despite his struggles with his superior and his conscience when accepting information gleaned illegally by the ever resourceful Signorina Elettra.
Buoyed by his love for his family and the City of Venice, Ms. Leon brilliantly paints Brunetti with a cynical brush while maintaining his humanity and love of beauty. Intelligent and insightful, DRAWING CONCLUSIONS is another wonderful book in the Brunetti series.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Most of the time when you deal with large companies, the customer service can only be described as less than adequate. All you have to do is call your phone or cable company with a question about your bill and you know what I'm talking about.
I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised when I called PANDIGITAL this week. Between my travels to Pennsylvania and Connecticut during the last month I lost or misplaced the charger for my eReader, the PANDIGITAL NOVEL.
Like any electronic device, it's totally useless if you can't recharge it. In our new electronic age, most of us have a new junk drawer somewhere in our homes, one that's filled with miscellaneous chargers that don't fit anything we own, outdated cell phones and MP3 players that don't have their chargers and computer and printer cables that don't work with anything. After my search online to find a new charger for sale came up empty, I decided to do what I should have done in the first place. I called Pandigital customer service.
Many of you are familiar with Pandigital because of the electronic picture frames they've been producing for years. Not as familiar is their Pandigital Novel. Jokingly known to some as the "poor man's iPad", their full color eReader is a terrific bargain and has every feature imaginable. I've been more than happy with the one my husband bought me for Christmas.
Even more spectacular than their products is their customer support. My first experience with Pandigital's customer service was back in January when I had a problem with my Novel. Since my sons are grown and not living at home, I can't turn to one of them as easily to untangle my electronic problems and we don't have any neighbors with teenagers. After calling Pandigital customer service and reaching a live person located in California rather than some remote region of the world, the rep was able to quickly walk me through the problem and my Novel has been working perfectly ever since. AND there was no charge for their assistance (are you listening DELL?).
Back to the charger....how many times have you had to call a company for a new part or lost accessory and the charge with shipping costs almost rivals the original purchase? WHEN I finally called PANDIGITAL customer service directly this week, not only are they sending me a new charger, they aren't charging me for it (no pun intended) and didn't even want payment for the shipping costs. What an uncommonly nice surprise!
Thank you and kudos to PANDIGITAL for providing old-fashioned customer support and service that doesn't require you to have your credit card in your hand before placing a call to them!
It's the holiday season and Jack Armstrong is dying from an unspecified, incurable terminal illness. He's determined to hang on until the holidays for his wife Lizzie and their children, but he's totally bedridden. He makes it all the way to Chrismas Eve only to have his wife die in a car accident on her way to pick up his medication.
In the blink of an eye, Lizzie's parents spring into action, farming the children out to Lizzie's family. They sell the Armstrong family home and Jack is placed in a Hospice facility to await death, alone.
Suddenly, there is a miracle! Jack has totally recovered and rehab brings him back to the man he used to be, albeit one without a home or income. Lizzie's plan for the summer was to take the children to her childhood home on the beach in South Carolina; a place her family has avoided since the death of Lizzie's twin years earlier. The rest of ONE SUMMER has Jack and his children facing the future in typical chick lit fashion.
I've been a longtime fan of David Baldacci and have read all of his books except for one. I have a personal aversion to my favorite mystery and thriller writers venturing into the realm of sappy chick lit, so I skipped THE CHRISTMAS TRAIN published in 2002 (the cover was enough to send me to another shelf in the bookstore). After reading multiple solid thrillers or mysteries by the same author, it feels fake when they decide to take a stroll down primrose lane.
When I received the ARC for ONE SUMMER, I decided to give it a try. My earlier mentioned aversion proved to be true, this novel from Baldcci is a sappy formulaic tearjerker, but I'm sure it will be a big beach read this summer. The cover alone is cute enough to sell it and it would look great on the end table in your beach house.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Heavy rains have caused the Williamette River in Portland, Oregon to flood the city. Det. Archie Sheridan has just learned that one of the recent drowning victims actually died from poisoning before going into the rising water.
When the medical examiner discovers that more of the presumed drowning victims actually met the same fate, Sheridan finds himself in a search for a serial killer. The killer is using a very unusual way to harm his victims, a deadly toxin from an exotic octopus sting.
Sheridan heroically rescues a young boy from the floodwaters, only to have the boy disappear from the hospital. As Sheridan races against time to find the killer, he believes the child is tied into the case. Having lost her day job, reporter Susan Ward follows Archie throughout the investigation. It's obvious that there is an attraction between Sheridan and Ward, but since I haven't read any of Cain's other novels, it's hard to tell what the connection is.
The murder weapon in Ms. Cain's novel was just a little too far-fetched to be believable. However, THE NIGHT SEASON is a well written light mystery and I liked that Cain incorporated the true story of the Vanport Flood on Memorial Day in 1948.
Friday, April 15, 2011
Det. Sargent Joe Rizzo is at the end of his career with the Brooklyn Police Department. Rizzo and his partner, Det. Priscilla Jackson, arrive at the apartment of Robert Lauria who was murdered days earlier.
Lauria was living like a hermit with no close friends or relatives, and Rizzo and Jackson believe his death is tied to the murder of a famous playwright in Manhattan. Trying to stay under the radar to prove the connection without giving away their information to Manhattan is a difficult task, but Rizzo is convinced this is the case that will end his long police career on a high note.
Meanwhile, Rizzo is facing a real problem at home; his youngest daughter wants to attend the police academy. Rizzo is dead set against her career choice because of his knowledge of how frustrating police work can be.
If Joe's retirement is truly just a year away, this series is going to be short lived which would be a shame. The banter between old world Italian Rizzo and Priscilla, an African American lesbian, livens up Manfredo's latest. RIZZO'S FIRE is a good, solid mystery, but the references to damaging information that Joe and his previous partner have on a local politico compel me to suggest that you read RIZZO'S WAR first.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Sadly, we lost the four smallest ducks this week. Not as robust as the others, my husband tried valiantly to save them but they never really recovered from their trip to New Jersey. The remaining 17 are thriving.
We had a calendar mishap this past week and even though the ducks had just arrived, we had reservations out of state for the weekend. Many thanks to ducky godmother, Candace Alderton, who hosted the entire flock at her home for two nights. This was not an easy endeavor with three cats in residence, but all went well and the ducks will fondly remember their weekend sojourn with Candace.
Since the flock is just beginning to outgrow their storage bin, we plan to move them to larger quarters this coming weekend. Be sure to visit my blog next Wednesday for a new update.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Ali Reynolds is in the middle of her Arizona Police Academy training course when she's visited by an old friend. Ali and Brenda Riley were both TV news anchors before being considered too old for their respective slots.
Ali is more than surprised to see the condition Brenda's life is in. She's not only an alcoholic but has lost everything and is living out of her car. She wants Ali's help to locate her fiance, Richard Lattimer. The problem is that Brenda has never met Richard and doesn't even know what he looks like.
With the help of her boyfriend's computer expert, Ali soon discovers that Lattimer doesn't exist, but Richard Lowensdale does. In a cruel game of cyber-stalking, Lowensdale has been using fictitious last names to create bogus romantic relationships with women on the internet. After leading each to believe he's in love with them, he drops them just when they think they're engaged to him. When Lowensdale is murdered in his home, everything points to Brenda Riley.
Reynolds finds herself unemployed following her training and sets out to prove that Brenda is innocent. With a murderer on the loose, Brenda disappears, and Ali teams up with Det. Gil Morris to find her friend and the killer.
Like Jance's other mysteries, FATAL ERROR is a fun, quick read.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Goddard (God) Byrd is the philandering headmaster of the all-male Goode School, a financially struggling prep school. Despite tradition and God's personal aversion to coeducation, Carole Faust, a brilliant, young and rebellious black woman has been admitted as a scholarship student through a clerical oversight.
The lives of Lil Hellman, a young widow, and her small child EV are interwoven with God's and Carole's in this coming of age story that richly encompasses the changing times, from the Kennedy assassination through civil unrest and the sexual revolution.
Surrounded by young people, especially young women, who are embracing newly forged freedoms, God's unwillingness or inability to accept the shifting dynamics of the world around him deftly mirrors the struggles of the era.
While reading DAUGHTERS OF THE REVOLUTION, I was in awe of the author's ability to bring her characters to such vivid life amid the backdrop of the political and social turbulence of the '60s through the early '80s. Ms. Cooke's achingly beautiful and intelligent prose makes DAUGHTERS OF THE REVOLUTION a delightful and powerful literary gem.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
So cute and tiny, unfortunately five did not survive the trip, but we have 21 chirping little ducks hopping around. As soon as my husband opened the box, one jumped out to explore his new home.
After two days in transit, each duckling has to be introduced to drinking water and that went very quickly. After placing them into a tall plastic storage bin, we gave them duck food sprinkled with sugar water. Surprisingly, you can't provide too much drinking water at first because they can become waterlogged which isn't healthy. Today I'll be tied to the kitchen timer to add or take away their water bowls until they're acclimated to their new home.
The ducklings need to be kept warm and their box is currently sitting on a heat vent as well as a heating pad. I've added a can of Pepsi to their box so you can see how quickly they grow as I post new pictures.
It's been four years since we raised a new flock and it will take about five or six weeks until they're mature enough to be released into our stream. In a few days they'll have outgrown their plastic bin and we'll transfer them to a pen in the garage with heat lamps to keep them warm.
When they get too large for the pen (not to mention, too smelly), George will transfer them to a specially designed cage in the backyard shed that allows them to go outside without the threat of predators. They'll stay in the shed until they're old enough to be let loose.
We were really lucky with our first flock and didn't start to lose them to the coyotes or foxes for a couple of years. When our last few decamped for someone else's house further downstream, we knew it was time for our new arrivals.
Monday, April 4, 2011
Take two self-centered and egotistical people; he’s married, she’s a new widow. He’s a successful surgeon, she’s a poetry babbling master of everything. Both are oversexed, selfish and narcissistic. Add an overweight, whiny and possessive wife, a nefarious father-in-law, and two toxic grown children and I have just introduced you to the main characters in FINAL EXIT.
Like a Harlequin Romance on steroids, Bob and Jen very graphically hop in and out of bed like bunnies, all the while discussing art, flowers and beauty with such pithy post-coital comments as, “I like the Country French look.”
But FINAL EXIT would have no platform at all for the steamy sex if the wife of thirty years wasn’t a deranged stalker and if her father didn’t have dealings with criminals. When bad things start to happen, do our protagonists call the police like normal people? Of course not! They simply contact his good friend with the CIA who helps them change their identities and fake Bob’s death.
But wait! We’re not done yet. Bob’s CIA friend must really just work in the mail room because a PI is able to quickly locate them, bringing the reader to the kind of ending only found in a really bad “B” movie.
Sunday, April 3, 2011
At any one time I have over 150 books waiting to be read and reviewed. Like most of you, my dedication wanes when I spend too much time staring out the window, or on the internet playing canasta on Pogo, but most of the time I stay on track and try to do at least ten reviews each month.
I don't keep many books after I've read them, just some of my favorites or books signed by authors whose books I've reviewed on my blog.
My blog features reviews of books that I've actually read. Since I'm a one (wo)man band, I can't really read every book on the market so I try to pick and choose carefully, my favorites being mysteries, memoirs and women's fiction.
Although I'm linked to the websites of all fifteen Recorder Newspapers, and some of you have seen my recent review in their print papers, I am totally independent. I don't receive any payments of any kind for my reviews. If you notice, I also don't currently have ads on my blog.
My reviews simply reflect my own opinions and I try to be fair and honest when writing a review. Not everyone will agree with all of my opinions but I try to write my reviews as if I were describing a book to a good friend and whether or not I think he or she would enjoy it.
All of this is leading up to another point. Recently I have been contacted directly by some authors or by friends of authors to review their books. While I am happy to receive their books, I value my independence and integrity when reviewing ANY book. I can't promise that my review will produce the result they're hoping for.
This was the case with my recent involvement with Saloma Furlong, the author of WHY I LEFT THE AMISH. She was referred to me by the woman who manages the blogs for the Recorder Newspaper group. It was a pleasure and a delight to read and review Saloma's memoir, but the same is not always going to be true of every book I'm solicited to read.
With that said, I hope you enjoy the "tour" of my office and have a better understanding of the purpose of my blog. Feel free to email any comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for stopping by!
Note: If you double click on any of the photos I've posted, you can see the titles of some of the books in my "to read" queue.
In this near-future thriller, Narea takes us on a journey of Islamic terrorists plotting numerous assaults on the United States and the West with the use of dirty bombs in an attempt to change global economics forever. Frighteningly realistic, THE FUND follows the money trail of funding for these assaults.
Kate Molares, a U.S. Defense intelligence operative, is assigned to follow the money. Kate is working with all of her government contacts to piece together what the large money exchanges represent, trying to discover how the money is being used. Using her resources, she stumbles upon a serum being tested in Cuba that's designed to create super warriors willing to die for their causes.
Molares is reunited with her college lover, Nebibi Hasehm, neither realizing just how much on opposite sides they are. Hasehm is on a quest to create an Islamic money fund that will provide the necessary funding for the terrorists' plans. The countries backing these terrorist acts include Cuba and Venezuela, as well as Muslim extremists.
In this race against time, Narea's sweeping novel keeps the reader on the edge of the seat wondering if all of the pieces of this puzzle will fit together before the world is changed forever. Intricate and exciting, THE FUND is going to be the beach read of 2011!
ISBN 978-0-7653-2890-8 464 pages
Saturday, April 2, 2011
When Quinn's artist mother was pregnant with her, she attempted suicide. Because of this very close brush with death, baby Quinn was born with an unusual ability; she knew there was another Quinn living a different life and that she could identify the "portals" to reach the other side. Throughout the years, her mother protected her from reaching through these portals.
Fast forward thirty-odd years and Quinn Braverman is a young married mother with one child and another on the way. After undergoing tests, she and and husband Lewis are faced with the horrible choice of terminating the pregnancy or giving birth to a severely disabled child. Quinn's mother had finally succumbed to her depression and died of an overdose, and Quinn desperately wants to talk to her mother about her baby.
Quinn finally uses the "portal"; a crack in the wall in her basement laundry room to visit the road not taken when she left her self-centered, neurotic lover for Lewis. On the other side, her mother hasn't chosen suicide and Quinn is still with her ex-boyfriend, living a sophisticated urban life. Coming back through the portal to her life with Lewis and her son is more difficult each time Quinn goes through the portal to the other side, and Quinn has to finally face which life is more real and important to her.
Who wouldn't want to be able to view the fork in the road of life we didn't take? But Meister's trite treatment of this subject as well as a selfish protagonist who uses a crack in a cement wall to escape the difficulties she and her husband are facing is more than silly. Especially since Quinn always seems to get back to reality before her young son's school bus arrives.
THE OTHER LIFE tries to straddle the line between serious women's fiction and the supernatural and ultimately fails at both. Save your money and skip this one.
Friday, April 1, 2011
Celebrity agent Myron Bolitar and his friend Windsor Horne Lockwood III (Win) are back in this new mystery from Harlan Coben.
In this latest installment, Myron is visited by a very pregnant Suzze Tervantino. One of Myron's first clients, Suzze wants him to help her locate her rock star husband Lex Ryder, as well as find out who left a damaging message on her facebook page.
Bolitar's investigation takes him to a Manhattan nightclub where he catches a glimpse of his estranged sister-in-law Kitty. Myron hasn't seen Kitty or his brother Brad in sixteen years and is determined to find a way to reconnect. Suzze and Kitty were budding tennis stars together years ago and Myron is quickly immersed in a deadly investigation that includes both women as well as ties to organized crime. As usual, blueblood Win has Myron's back and is more than willing to use physical or deadly force to protect his friend.
Along with his investigation, Myron is dealing with a very ill father and a belligerent teenaged nephew he's never met before. Seriously involved with the woman he plans to spend his life with, it seems that Coben might have different plans for his characters in the future.
I've been a longtime fan of Harlan Coben and have read and enjoyed all ten of the Bolitar novels. His seamless writing and intricate plots make his books a total pleasure to read.