Book 173: HUSBAND AND WIFE Review

Imagine that you’re preparing to attend a friend’s wedding, the babysitter is downstairs keeping the children engaged, your husband is looking for a shoe and he decides to tell you that he had an affair a year ago while you were pregnant. So begins Husband and Wife by Leah Stewart. 


Sarah Price is forced to accept that her marriage is far from perfect. She also realizes that Nathan’s newest book INFIDELITY has far-reaching implications now that he’s admitted to his own infidelity. She has given up on her own creativity as a poet to work and support their family so Nathan could continue to write. Sarah thought she was happy but soon realizes that she has just become accepting of life changes rather than being truly happy. In an effort to regain her sense of self, she plays hooky from work, packs up the kids and travels from North Carolina to Texas by car. She stays with friends in Texas and starts a “relationship” with a college friend that seems to appreciate her for who she really is.


In many ways Sarah has to learn to accept that she is providing more restraints on her life than anyone else. She can’t blame Nathan or circumstances on where she is with regards to being a poet. She decided that she couldn’t write poetry anymore and that she had nothing more to offer creatively. When she realizes that marriage and life is about compromise as well as growth, she realizes that creativity is ultimately in the mind of the beholder. If she wants to write poetry she can, if she doesn’t then she won’t. Along with this realization comes the knowledge that you can’t ever go back in time. 


Although I condemn Nathan’s extramarital activities, I found that I could only sympathize with Sarah so far. Her reaction of “you had an affair so I should be able to have one too” is very childish. I found Husband and Wife to be a decent read, providing a credible and realistic story even with the juvenile attitudes and behavior.    


Book 172: HEART OF EVIL Review

What do an old Louisiana plantation, a civil war re-enactment and things that go bump in the night have in common? These are all elements in the second Krewe of Hunters book Heart of Evil by Heather Graham. (Yes I know I read the books out of sequence, but it didn’t seem to make that much of a difference.)


Ashley Donegal is the co-owner/operator of a hotel in her family’s plantation home. During a Civil War re-enactment a man is murdered. It just so happens that this particular man was portraying her forefather, Marshall Donegal, and the body is left in the family cemetery. Ashley’s grandfather is concerned, seeks some favors from old friends, and before you know the Krewe of Hunters is on the scene to help with the investigation. The first to arrive on the scene is Jake Mallory, an old Donegal family friend and ex-lover to Ashley. What follows is an investigation into the past and present with a little help from some family ghosts. 


I rather liked the incorporation of past with the present in terms of the Donegal family history. Sorry to say but that was about all I really liked from this particular story. The characters seemed to be a bit flat, most of the action was expected, and even the romance seemed forced. I sadly found the ghosts to be more entertaining than anyone else. This particular series seems to be a hit-or-miss combo for me, as I found book one – Phantom Evil to be an okay read, book three – Sacred Evil to be a good read, and now book two –  Heart of Evil back to being an okay read.   


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

More Ramblings and Weekend Plans

I haven’t forgotten about you…I’ve been busy reading and will be posting reviews of Heart of Evil by Heather Graham, The Canary List by Sigmund Brouwer, and Husband and Wife by Leah Stewart over the weekend. I’m currently reading The Evil Inside by Heather Graham (release date 08/30/2011) and hope to have the review up this weekend as well.


Regrettably a series of migraine headaches slowed me down this week so the reviews are a little slower to post. I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts on these reads with you, especially The Canary List.


Other than reading and writing reviews, my weekend plans include a quick drive down to Beckley WV to visit the Library of Congress Gateway to Knowledge traveling exhibit. The exhibit will be available at the Raleigh County Public Library in Beckley from 9-5 today and tomorrow. This wonderful exhibit has traveled across the US and provided the opportunity to learn about the history of the Library, view facsimiles of a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, and more. If you’re in the area don’t miss out on this opportunity. 


What are your plans this weekend? Hopefully it includes reading!

Book 171: COUNTING FROM ZERO Review

Your computer may be part of a global attack and you don’t even know it. At least that’s part of the premise in Counting From Zero by Alan B. Johnston. The problems begin and end with internet security. 


Most of us think we are prepared against viruses, worms, and malware with antivirus programs, etc., but there are those that use email encryption programs, change their passwords weekly, and use only open source software. Or at least there are in the fictional world of Counting From Zero and one such person is Mick O’Malley. To say that Mick takes paranoia to an extreme is a bit of an understatement, but it appears that he is justified with his paranoia. Mick works in computer security and knows exactly what havoc viruses, malware, worms, spam, etc. can wreak on a computer or on a computer system. His work takes him around the world, often on speaking engagements or conferences on computer security. He discovers a new attack while in Japan and thus begins the first zero day (initial day of attack). The intrigue in discerning why this attack has been launched and its purpose sends Mick traveling around the world and has others following his every move.


I’m not much of a computer person. I understand the basics and am quite happy in my ignorance . . . or I was until I read Counting From Zero. Mr. Johnston is known in the computer security industry and has combined fact with fiction to the point that I’m now paranoid about internet security. There was much that I didn’t understand but Mr. Johnston did a credible job of explaining terminology and making things as simple as possible. The story does drag periodically from all of the computer terminology and explanations. In addition the secondary characters aren’t as well-developed as perhaps they could be. Counting From Zero is one scary techno-thriller to the point that I was actually afraid to turn my computer on and log into the internet. 


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the author. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Ramblings…

Well fellow readers it was a strange and not-so-wonderful weekend here in Wild and Wonderful West Virginia. As with most of the US, we got hit with the heat wave and this was followed by severe thunderstorms. If you’re not familiar with our beautiful state, it is quite mountainous and we have trees galore. There are homes along hillsides, atop hillsides and between hillsides throughout the state. And all along and beside those houses are trees, lots and lots of trees. Unfortunately when the winds are too strong or lightning strikes are a little too close to the ground this can make for disastrous situations with downed trees resulting in downed power lines. We jokingly say that in our area if too much rain falls the power goes out, if the wind blows the power goes out, if snow falls the power goes out… 


Now the storm came through on Friday evening but for some reason our power decided to stay on until mid-Saturday, during the middle of another heat surge. Then, adding insult to injury, our local electrical provider stated that the power couldn’t be restored until Monday, 07/25/2011 by 6:00 PM ET (maybe earlier).  So long story short (I know – too late), we had no power, no breezes, 90+ temperatures with heat indices in the 100s and we’re told the power would not be restored for 2 more days, so we hightailed it off to a hotel for a few days. This was pretty much a necessity since my parents are elderly (both are in their late 70s and my father is in frail health due to mini-strokes and stage 4 kidney disease) and they obviously couldn’t stay home in those conditions. And with me being the eldest (and only daughter), it was decided that I should accompany them to ensure they had no problems for the duration. Thankfully, the power was restored before 6:00 PM yesterday and we were able to return to our homes. I could now enjoy the A/C in the privacy of my own home, listen to Vivaldi a little too loud, and get back online and in touch with my fellow readers (I missed you).


The good thing about this past weekend was that I got to read while elder-sitting. I hope to post reviews in the next few days for the books recently finished: Heart of Evil by Heather Graham (yes I read the books out of order…sorry) and Counting From Zero by Alan B. Johnston. I’m currently reading Husband and Wife by Leah Stewart. Upcoming reads include: The Evil Inside by Heather Graham, Shoe Strings by Christy Hayes and Divine Intervention by Cheryl Kaye Tardif. Until next time, happy reading!











Book 170: ONCE WICKED ALWAYS DEAD Review

Everyone has secrets, but there are secrets and there are Secrets! Once Wicked Always Dead by T. Marie Benchley is filled with secrets, some personal and others deadly. 


Phillip Madison is hiding one very big Secret and Molly Madison, his wife, is the last to know. After 20+ years of marriage to a legal mover-and-shaker, Molly knows that their relationship has changed but she assumes it is because of work. Little does she know that Phillip is living a double life…not with another woman but with another man. As soon as “the other man” outs Phillip, she trades in her car for a truck, meets with a divorce attorney and moves from Florida to Montana to take over her family’s working cattle ranch. Her life has truly been turned upside down, but the problems are just beginning. Fortunately she has Clayton Leatherbe, the ranch foreman, to help her through the transition of society wife to ranch owner.


Once Wicked Always Dead starts off with a murder and then transitions to a society lunch. Doesn’t seem like these activities have a lot in common but Ms. Benchley does a fine job of bringing it together. There seems to be a lot going on in this story: Molly O’Malley Madison and ranch life and her romantic interest in Clayton; Phillip being outed then accepting his new life and finding a new love interest; Gavin O’Malley’s secrets that may be a threat to Molly; Evin the resident bad guy willing to go to any means to get Molly’s property; and Swan – Phillip’s former lover and personal assistant, who is out for revenge. Oops…I forgot to mention the murderer that is taking out child molesters and bad guys. But Molly isn’t a “bad guy” so why is she being targeted? Are the ghosts of her father’s past coming back to haunt her?


Once Wicked Always Dead may loosely be considered a romantic suspense thriller, light on the romance. (There seemed to be more romantic action taking place with Phillip and Jack, Phillip’s new love interest, than there is between Molly and Clayton.) Although all of the characters intersect due to Molly and her past, present and future, the action doesn’t make much sense or become cohesive until the end. I found most of the action and the characters to be somewhat believable but it stretched credulity at moments (I guess people with money can do almost anything). All things considered, this was a decent read in the suspense thriller genre.


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book 169: LIFE FROM SCRATCH Review

When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade, unless you’re Rachel Goldman then you might make lemon custard or use the lemon to roast a chicken. Rachel Goldman is the main character in Life From Scratch by Melissa Ford. Rachel has just gone through a divorce and must decide what she wants to do with her life. 


Rachel is a 34-four-year old woman that was married for 12 years and has been divorced for less than a year. She has taken sabbatical from her job as a graphic artist working for the New York Public Library. She didn’t hate her job but she just isn’t quite sure what she wants to do, so she decides to learn how to cook and document it on a blog. Rachel thinks of her blog as a food or cooking blog but after she’s nominated for and wins a Bloscar  (an award for various blogs in assorted genres), she realizes that her blog is basically an online diary and the best therapy available. Her other “therapist” and confidante is her best friend Arianna.


Post-divorce Rachel discovers that she enjoys being an aunt since she never had children. She also learns that she has been a lousy friend by ignoring what has been happening (or not happening) in Arianna’s life. It was somewhat amusing to see Rachel fall in lust with Gael, the Spaniard with the gorgeous smile. At first glance they seem to be made for one another with their similar interests, but Gael isn’t the man Rachel thinks he is or exactly what she wants. What she discovers she wants is her ex-husband…pre-law practice. Ultimately Rachel discovers that life goes on after a divorce, it may take awhile to grieve over the relationship but that’s fine. Rachel seems to epitomize the average woman that has gone through a non-acrimonious divorce. You may not be able to go back and change the past but you can start from scratch using the lessons learned from past experiences and mistakes. Life From Scratch is a sometimes humorous but realistic look at life after divorce. A quick and good read for anyone…married or single!


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book 168: THE HAIRDRESSER OF HARARE Review

Every now and again I read a book that makes me stop and appreciate all that I have. One such book was The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu. This isn’t nonfiction and isn’t filled with dark themes in general. It tells the story of two hairdressers in Harare, Zimbabwe and societal prejudices. One is a male and from a privileged urban family, Dumisani. The other is female, a single mother, and from a poor rural family, Vimbai. Theirs is a story of endurance, jealousy, friendship and betrayal.


Vimbai is a 26-year-old single mother. She works reasonably hard at her craft and considers herself the best hairdresser in Harare. Her goal is to eventually own and operate her own salon, but for now she plods away working for Mrs. Khumalo. Vimbai has her own personal issues to deal with, such as becoming a single mother at age 19, raising her daughter alone because the father is married, and an estrangement from her family because her elder brother died and left her his home in Harare. She, and everyone else in the working 10%, must also deal with the overwhelming inflation rate and search for basic staples like sugar and cornmeal not to mention flickering electrical service and exorbitant utilities. Vimbai’s status and security is threatened when Dumisani walks in to Mrs. Khumalo’s salon, requests employment and gets it. Most of the new clients and a few of the older established clients all vie for Dumisani to work on their hair. Dumisani goes out of his way to befriend Vimbai, eventually becoming a tenant in her home and before long a very good friend. He invites her to a family wedding and their relationship moves from friendship to an engagement. Dumisani’s family openly embraces Vimbai and her daughter because they feel that the relationship between Vimbai and Dumisani means he is “cured” (this is the first reference to Dumisani’s homosexuality). Dumisani has kept a secret and it is a secret that could get him killed and threatens Vimbai’s new found security. 


I actually enjoyed reading The Hairdresser of Harare. I presumed it would be depressing given that it deals with prejudices, but it wasn’t. Mr. Huchu incorporates the topics of racism, poverty, and prejudice in a very circumspect manner but he gets the point across. Vimbai isn’t easy to like as a character but I think that’s because of her flaws more so than anything else. Dumisani isn’t as developed as Vimbai but he is likable. Both Vimbai and Dumisani have a certain naïveté about life and family that was actually refreshing. The only problems I had in reading this book was in understanding the names and foreign terminology (a personal hang-up…I like to not only understand but also know how to pronounce everything when reading). If you haven’t read anything that might be classified as African Literature and want to start, then I recommend The Hairdresser of Harare. This was my first foray into this genre, as well as my first book by Mr. Huchu, and I hope it won’t be my last for the genre and this author.


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the author. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book 167: MEMORIES FOR SALE Review

Memories for Sale is a novella by Karen Fowler. This is a story about a mother with a cancer diagnosis, an estranged daughter, a grandchild that has never been seen and a desire to make amends. Like many parents, Eleanor thinks that providing money for her granddaughter will make amends for never having seen her, so she decides to sell her collection of ceramics. Each ceramic item is tied to a memory, so she truly is putting her memories up for sale. The basic premise for the story is nice enough. The only character that the reader gets any true insight into is Eleanor, but as the main character that is acceptable. I found Memories for Sale to be a decent and quick read but one that was quickly forgotten after completion.


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the author through LibraryThing. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book 166: THE SAINTS GO DYING Review

A serial murderer is on the loose in the City of Angels, Los Angeles. Unfortunately this murderer clearly aligns himself with evil and is out to kill people that do good or “saints” in Erik Hanberg’s The Saints Go Dying.


Deputy Arthur Beautyman is the lead investigator and coordinator on the case. He is literally being overseen by the entire city thanks to a local television program called ‘Watchdog.’ Beautyman is definitely not a Hollywood or LA version of an investigator. He’s rather short, has graying hair, and has an “average” pockmarked face. This is a case of Beautyman versus the beast, the serial killer. After fourteen months and numerous murders there isn’t even a viable suspect, or is there? Is the killer really that good or is the Sheriff’s department that inept? That is what ‘Watchdog’ would have everyone believe but is it true? Beautyman has his hands full juggling the investigation, public backlash and the ever-increasing popularity of the ‘Watchdog’ series. 


Mr. Hanberg has provided a nicely written suspense in The Saints Go Dying. The characters and the action are very believable, or at least until the end. I found the ending a bit far-fetched but fiction doesn’t have to mirror reality. The Saints Go Dying is a quick read that packs a suspense-filled punch to the end.


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the author. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”