Day 96 – Early Reader Review: STOLEN HEARTS

Meet David Randall, a private investigator. He’s at the end of his second marriage — his wife has thrown him out. He’s also ready to quit working for his small-time, dead-end agency and head out on his own. David has suffered tragedy in the death of his daughter in a car accident a few years earlier and is still grieving and suffering from guilt (he thinks he could have saved her). All this and he’s only 30 years of age.


David is sleeping in his car down the street from his second wife’s house when he is awakened by sirens. A few streets over he finds police and an ambulance and what appear to be cryptic notes on paper strewn across the murder victim’s yard. Since he doesn’t know the victim, he leaves the crime scene and heads out. Along the way he meets up with his friend Camden and goes home with him. Camden operates a boarding-house and is apparently psychic, but is probably the sanest person in the house. Other residents include: Kary, a 24 year old student and the estranged daughter of tele-evangelists; Rufus, a soft-hearted big brute of a man and construction worker; and Fred, an elderly eccentric (Southern-speak for little bit crazy but lovable). Along the way we also meet Ellin, Camden’s lady friend, and producer at the Psychic Service Network and Lily, a neighbor that swears she was abducted by aliens.


After quitting his job and picking up his last paycheck, Cam obtains his first client, Melanie Gentry. Melanie is interested in learning whether her deceased great-Grandmother, Laura Gentry, wrote any folk music attributed to John B. Ashford. This is when things get interesting because it is at this point that Camden begins channeling the spirit of John Ashford and he isn’t exactly the nicest of guys. The rumor mill had it that Ashford may have been the cause of Laura’s “accidental” drowning.


There’s quite a bit of murder, mystery and mayhem that ensues. David is now head-over-heals in love with the beautiful Kary and likens himself to the deceased John Ashford and his relationship with the late Laura Gentry. Interspersed throughout all of this intrigue and pseudo-romance (at least in David’s mind), there’s plenty of drama: Ellin wants Camden to appear on one of the Psychic Service network’s shows and he refuses, she then tries to use the spirit of John Ashford as a tie in to a PBS documentary on folk music that is currently being filmed. Camden is having an identity crisis, related more to the fact that he was abandoned as a child and raised in foster homes. He doesn’t know who he is or where he’s from, and the spirit of John Ashford is using this to obtain advantage in over-riding and suppresing Camden’s personality. David also seems to be encountering the ghost of his daughter at odd moments throughout his investigation.


This is a mystery but it doesn’t really follow the traditional mystery path. The incorporation of psychics, alien abductions, child abandonment issues, grief over losing a child, folk music history and ghostly encounters and possession make for a unique reading experience. Look for Stolen Hearts by Jane Tesh to be released in October.




Disclaimer: This book was received for free from the publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, through netGalley. I was not paid, required, nor 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.”

Day 95 – Book 91: THE FIRST

SPOILER ALERT!


This novella centers around Reena Jamil, a 22-year old Muslim, Pakistani immigrant and a senior majoring in Accounting at George Mason University. During her last semesters/quarters she meets an American young man, Brian Parker, and experiences her first crush or love. Brian is majoring in management but has no idea what he wants to do with his life beyond graduation, whereas Reena has her life planned: graduate, study for CPA exam, pass exam, get accounting job, and eventually get married. Reena’s parents, however, expect something different…marriage to a good Muslim, Pakistani man and kids. Reena’s best friend, Sofia, is also a Muslim, Pakistani immigrant and tries to guide her in the ways of American dating and expectations. Obviously she isn’t the best guide because she is cyberstalking an old friend from Pakistan, Reza Shaikh.


Reena and Brian breakup after only a few months of dating. The cause of the breakup is Reena’s unwillingness to compromise her religious beliefs by having sex with Brian. Brian feels that Reena is simply playing with him and his emotions as she never expected the relationship to develop further than it had prior to the breakup. Since this is Reena’s first boyfriend and first breakup she is devastated. Obviously not too devastated because she quickly rebounds and finds herself engaged to Brian’s Pakistani roommate, Raheel Malik. At the same time that Reena and Raheel are getting engaged, Sofia is surprised by a visit from Reza and they also become engaged.


Fast-forward a few years and Reena and Raheel are having marital difficulties. She has quit her job and has been diagnosed with infertility issues. This is problematic because in certain cultures a woman’s worth is based upon her ability to procreate. The final blow to the marriage is when Reena randomly encounters Brian after many years and invites him to dinner. Raheel explodes as he presumes she has been with an ex-boyfriend and that is a slap to his ego. Is Raheel experiencing true jealousy or simply suffering from false-pride based on cultural and familial values? Mirroring these problems, Sofia finds herself pregnant and Reza is astounded that she would make such a decision (stopping her birth control pills and attempting to get pregnant) without discussing it with him first. Reza has had difficulty finding “gainful” employment in the US and is suffering because his wife is making more money than he is…big slight in some cultures.


Fast forward another few years and Reena is living in North Carolina and working part-time in a bookstore. She encounters a pregnant teenager that has been kicked out of her home. And guess what? Reena takes her in and winds up adopting the infant. Adoption was something her ex-husband Raheel would never consider because he desired a child of his flesh and blood.


There are some major cultural, religious and age-related issues that are superficially addressed in this story, most likely due to the short nature of the story. Ms. Ahmed has an interesting premise and possibly great characters, but the characters seem underdeveloped and they all appear to have maturity issues. Again, this deficiency may also be related to the brevity of the story. The First may not be considered great literature and has a few problem areas but it is still a decent read, at least in my opinion.

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

Day 94 – Book 90: A MODERN WITCH

I recently discovered the author Debora Geary by winning a copy of her novella MatchMakers 2.0 on LibraryThing.com. I was immediately hooked on her down-to-earth, humorous writing style. I then learned of her new book, A Modern Witch, and immediately added this to my TBR list. Over the past few weeks I’ve been inundated (in a very good way) with ARC books to read and review and decided to take a little break and read something from my personal TBR list, A Modern Witch.


There is nothing like Harry Potter, Bewitched or even new-age like to the witches in this story. Lauren is a very successful realtor in Chicago and doesn’t even know that she is witch until she is pulled into an online witch chat while grocery shopping. This online site is the brain-child of a brother and sister computer programming team, Nell and Jamie. Nell is mother of five and her youngest son, Aervyn, is perhaps the most powerful and skilled witch seen in recent times, and he’s only four. Jamie is a witch-trainer and computer nerd/geek. His improptu job is to leave California for Chicago to discern if Lauren is truly a witch or if their new programming has a glitch. Of course Lauren is a witch but she has difficulty accepting this news and even more difficulty accepting that she is a mind-witch with channeling skills. After having her barrier blocking skills blown by a precognitive incident (not hers but Jamie’s), she is forced to travel to California for what she terms “witch boot camp.” It is here that the fun truly begins. 


Along for this topsy-turvy joyride into witch training is Lauren’s best friend, Nat. Nat, although descended from great wealth and Boston bluebloods, feels more at ease operating her yoga studio in Chicago. However, she also feels kinship with Lauren and refuses to allow her to travel without her moral support. Both Nat and Lauren learn to deal with issues they’ve never experienced when brought into a large, loving witch family. Nat falls in love with Jamie and must deal with issues concerning her love of Chicago, her business and Jamie’s love for his family and life in California. Lauren must cope with accepting that what she has always felt was just great intuition is actually her mid-witching abilities. The only person that is truly open and accepting of everything that happens is Aervyn. It is truly magical to read about his spellcasting during large circle. This four year old communes with the planet and attempts to heal or “burp” the San Andreas fault line in order to prevent a major quake. He even states that the planet told him not completely heal the fault and thanks him for his work. He doesn’t even realize the enormity of what he has done, although all of the others in the circle do and are stunned.


At its heart this seems to be a story about acceptance. It’s about accepting changes in our personal life paths. It’s about accepting that there are people with a myriad of different abilities and life-choices. Ms. Geary presents a well-crafted tale that was quite easy to read and thoroughly enjoyable. I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

Day 93 – Early Reader Review: FLOWERS FOR HER GRAVE

I read, I smiled, I laughed, and I truly enjoyed this book. Although this is part of the Grim Reaper series by Judy Clemens, it is the first book in this series that I’ve read. It is also the first book from a series that I’ve read that didn’t leave me feeling as if I had to read the previous books in order to understand what was happening (although I do feel that I will be reading them just becuse I enjoyed this one so much). It took a little bit of getting used to someone, namely Casey Maldonado, having “death” or a grim reaper as a companion, but L’Ankou is part of what makes this mystery so light-hearted and fun.


Casey is still dealing with the grief of losing her son and husband in a car accident, not to mention severe albeit superficial injuries from a recent fight. She is trained in hapkido, a form of martial arts, as well as being an athletic trainer. We meet her and L’Ankou as they are travelling on a boxcar running away from Kansas. It appears that she previously was running away from Ohio, the scene of her husband and son’s death, and from being a murder suspect. Her travels take her to Raceda, Florida where she starts work at an apartment/condo complex as a fitness instructor/athletic trainer. Needless to say that trouble is not far behind. Casey, now known as Daisy, discovers a badly injured woman who subsequently dies. Of course she must investigate and quickly jumps to all the wrong conclusions. What is interesting is the often comedic and quirky changes that L’Ankou makes. When he is around a police officer, he dresses as one with a name tag to fit. He also dresses in a kimono upon learning that Casey/Daisy has been invited to a Japanese restaurant. Most people don’t see Casey’s companion but a few, those that don’t fear death, are capable of seeing him. This makes for interesting exchanges as Casey apparently must speak aloud to respond to L’Ankou and others can’t see him and presume she is speaking to them or that she’s just crazy.


I think quirky is the correct word to use in describing this book. Ms. Clemens has created characters that are realistic and all-too humans with their faults. L’Ankou, although not human, seems to have just as much to offer as his human companion and it this relationship that makes this book work. Casey needs L’Ankou as much as he seems to need her. She needs the connection to her deceased husband and son and L’Ankou needs to live vicariously through someone that can see him, interact with him and accept him for what he is…death. 


Look for this title to be released in early August. 















A complimentary advanced reader copy of this book was made available to me through netGalley’s advanced reader program and by the publisher,  Poisoned Pen Press. I thank them both for this opportunity. I was not paid, required nor 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.”

Day 92 – Book 88: A SMALL HOTEL

This is the story of Michael and Kelly Hays. It tells us of how they met, married, lived and fell apart. 


Michael is a lawyer and an emotionally distant man. He has been raised to believe that simply by “being there” he has expressed his emotions. This is learned behavior from his emotionally distant father. His father also teaches him that saying “I love you” is nothing more than words.


Kelly is a woman who deeply feels and needs to hear the words from her husband but never pushes him to say those three little words. Over the course of their 25 year marriage she begins to despair as she realizes that she needs those words to affirm who she is. This is perhaps due to her father’s emotional distance and mental problems experienced during her own childhood.


We are allowed to see the experiences that have impacted on both Michael and Kelly through numerous flashbacks. One minute Kelly is sitting in a hotel room alone and the next she is at the beginning of her relationship with Michael, and then it is 10 years later or perhaps only a few months in the past. Kelly has left Pensacola FL on her way to a small hotel in New Orleans LA to remember and end it all. This hotel is where Kelly and Michael initially consummated their relationship and returned numerous times over the course of their marriage. Both she and Michael consider room 303 to be their room, and it is here she will end her life without Michael much as it began with him 20+ years earlier.


Meanwhile Michael is suffering from his own personal demons as he reflects on his childhood and marriage. He is only a few miles away in Mississippi, attending a costume ball with his new love interest Laurie. Laurie is 29 years old, only a few years older than Michael’s daughter, and she has romanticized Michael’s need for quiet. Regrettably she doesn’t truly understand him or his inability to say much outside of the courtroom.


The irony is that both Michael and Kelly are more alike than they may know. Even though Kelly confesses to an affair, she never says that she wants her marriage to end. And Michael pushes through the divorce without ever saying that he wants the marriage to continue. To his mind, if Kelly wants to stay she should say so without coercion. Kelly feels that Michael should be able to say those three little words without coercion. 


Mr. Butler has deftly woven a tale of longing that ultimately reveals that men and women are more alike then perhaps they realize. It is sometimes sad without being depressingly so and always realistic. Look for A Small Hotel to be released in July of this year. I’m definitely adding this to my to-be-purchased and read-again lists.







I thank both the publisher Grove Press and netGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

Day 90 – Early Reader Review TURN OF MIND

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante is a haunting and tragic tale of murder and one women’s mental descension due to Alzheimers. Most of the story is written in the first person and we are allowed to witness, if not participate, in the often chaotic thoughts and actions of Jennifer White MD. Jennifer is in her early 60s, a retired orthopedic surgeon (specialty is hand surgery), widow, mother of two children, and a collector of religious art. Her son, Mark McLennan, is an attorney as was his father James. Her daughter, Fiona, is an economist and exhibits signs of manic episodes. Her son has been given medical power of attorney over her care and her daughter is given financial power of attorney. Other characters that are woven into the story include Magdelena, Jennifer’s full-time, live-in caregiver, and Amanda O’Toole a former teacher, Fiona’s godmother, reputedly Jennifer’s best friend, and the murder victim.


Jennifer’s story is divided into four sections and in each we see her decline to point that she suffers a “death of the mind.” Section one is immediately after the murder and Jennifer has more moments of lucidity but also has moments of aggression and confusion interspersed with memories of the past. One moment she realizes that her husband James is deceased and the next she is waiting for him to arrive home from work. One moment she is thinking about why Amanda hasn’t come over for coffee or to talk and the next she is reminded of her death and grieves. It is often just as difficult on the reader to see her grieve for Amanda repeatedly as she is reminded that her friend is gone. It seems cruel the way the police constantly remind of her this although we recognize that it must be done as a part of their investigation. 


Section/chapter one brings the reader into the struggle with the chaotic thoughts, foggy moments, and episodes of clarity along with Jennifer. At times it is difficult to discern what are memories and what is reality as we read along, much as Jennifer has difficulty detecting what is real and what is not. She is at any given moment an eighteen year old, then fifty and perhaps thirty-five, sometimes in the span of minutes. Throughout this chaos, we watch as police investigate the murder of Amanda and the post-mortem mutilation of her body — the surgical removal of all of the fingers on one hand. For obvious reasons, the police suspect Jennifer and are initially reluctant to accept that she is suffering from dementia. They presume this is just a little too suspect and awfully convenient. During this period, Jennifer is still living at home with the assistance of Magdelena. However, her children become increasingly aware that this may no longer be a possibility as she has episodes of seemingly bizarre behavior, such as when she decides to taste the fruit in the grocery store and then removes her clothing. It isn’t possible for one person to watch her constantly during the day so we suffer as the children make arrangements for Jennifer to be placed in an assisted-living facility. The house is sold and Jennifer is moved.


In section/chapter two we witness Jennifer take more steps away from reality. She is in an assisted-living facility but doesn’t know why. She constantly thinks of ways to escape and has more difficulty recognizing faces. She tries to retain a sense of dignity in her insistence that her “care-givers” call her Dr. White as opposed to Jennifer. We also witness, through recollected memories and current episodes, her ongoing struggles with her children. She struggles with dealing with Marks financial insolvency issues, which seems to recall her husband’s embezzlement issues. Jennifer also struggles with dealing with Fiona’s behavior as she recalls Amanda’s interference in her oblique references that inform James that Fiona is not his child at Jennifer’s 50th birthday party. The more that is revealed about Amanda, the less we like her. She comes across as manipulative and vindictive if not downright envious of what Jennifer has with her children and the relationship she has with her husband James.


Each chapter/section becomes shorter and shorter as Jennifer’s grasp on reality becomes smaller and smaller. More is revealed about Amanda’s murder and the events surrounding the murder. We witness reconciliations and a sense of acceptance. We begin to grieve, not with Jennifer but with her children as they suffer through their mother’s decline. Ms. LaPlante does a superb job of grabbing our attention and shaking us up as we participate in the ups and downs in Jennifer’s life. This is an excellent fictional depiction of the trauma of Alzheimers/dementia from the sufferer’s perspective as well as the family. I highly recommend adding this book to your to-be-read list upon its release in July. A definite must-read!


Thank you again to the publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press and netGalley for the opportunity to review this book.

Book 86 completed, on to Book 87

I wish I could say that I liked this book, but I can’t, for a variety of different reasons. I will not be posting the early review on my blog, but if you want to see what I thought please check out the links below to GoodReads.com or LibraryThing.com.


My next book is also courtesy of netGalley (and Grove/Atlantic Inc.): Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante, published by Atlantic Monthly Press. I hope to have the review posted by late Tuesday or early Wednesday. Until then, happy reading…

Day 86: Book 85 THE TWISTED THREAD

It’s often fascinating reading about the rich, as many of us aspire to having more and we just presume that the rich are so much better off in their elite society. A little slice of life with insight into the elite presented in THE TWISTED THREAD begs to differ. The reader is brought into the world of privileged teens attending a mythical boarding school, Armitage Academy, in New England. We are then introduced to Claire Harkness and she remains a character throughout the story even though she has been murdered. The questions raised are why was she murdered and where is her baby? Hard to believe that someone can hide a pregnancy especially at a boarding school, but we only have to read the headlines to know that this happens more often than not in the teenage population. Claire isn’t exactly ashamed of her pregnancy, she actually wants to use it to try and humiliate the school and perhaps her parents. 
Madeline Christopher is a recent college graduate and a new teacher and therefore considered inconsequential by many of the staff (and students) at Armitage. She, like Claire, is a product of divorced parents of wealth, but she survives and seems to have a strong sense or morality, ethics and responsibility that many of her students are lacking. It is Madeline that discerns immediately that Claire must have recently given birth after seeing the dead body and questions another student about the infant’s whereabouts. This begins a massive search by local police and the FBI on and around the campus of these privileged youth. Madeline also embarks on an amateur investigation into what made Claire tick and what has happened. She finds out that there are often societies within societies as she uncovers the “Reign of Terror” group, and that appearances aren’t always what they seem. Although initially started as a support group for the female students at Armitage, it has become much more over the years. Does this group play a role in Claire’s death? As Madeline uncovers more about the “reign” and their terror tactics, including getting a scholarship student to leave, she finds herself the target of the remaining reign members. She isn’t intimidated by their tactics but is initially shocked when she finds out that her sister was a member of this elitist group. What does shock her is the notion these girls have that they can do anything and get away with it simply as a result of their wealth.
The murder brings up many flaws in the history of Armitage. For example, Fred Naylor, art teacher, is the grandson of a previous headmaster. He must deal with the emotions raised when he finds out his grandfather wasn’t the morally upstanding man he thought when he finds out about a scandal during his grandfather’s tenure. That scandal mirrors the current in that it resulted in a student’s death, but that death was simply brushed away and erased from the school’s history . . . or was it? Matt Corelli is a detective assigned to the case and an Armitage graduate. He suffered during his time at Armitage and is hesitant in someways to return. He was falsely accused of cheating when it was his roommate that stole his work. The roommate was wealthy and Matt was a scholarship student, guess who the faculty believed? Will his prejudices against the school overshadow his investigation?
This is more than just a “whodunit” mystery based at an elite boarding school. Ms. Bacon’s introduces us to characters than run the socioeconomic gamut but they all play pivotal roles in this story. What do  the school handyman, his mother and his mothers caregiver have in common with the school and the murder victim? At first glance it appears that the answer is nothing, but we find out more about lives transecting as we read more and more, not only about Madeline, Matt and Fred, but also about Claire. 
We ultimately learn what made Claire who she was before her death and that she was more than the cool, calm, collected teenager she presented. Madeline learns that she isn’t the weaker sibling nor is she simply the lowly intern. Matt discovers that he is rather proud of his time at Armitage despite the problems encountered there because they have helped to make him the man he is today. Fred ultimately discovers that he doesn’t have to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, he can forge his own path. These discoveries are at the heart of this story and yes we discover “whodunit” but if you want to know more you’ll have to read the book on its release. 
This is a well-written, must read for the mystery lover. Look for it on June 14.


Day 83: PALE DEMON

Have you ever read a book and can’t quite decide if you liked it or not? Well, that’s where I am with Pale Demon by Kim Harrison. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t ‘hate’ this book but I simply didn’t like it as much as the others. There’s plenty of action and familiar characters, but this was the first time I had to force myself to read a book in this series. Jenks, the pixie, is still grieving the death of his wife but is taking the first steps to moving on with his life. Ivy, the vampire, has come to grips with the notion that there will be only friendship between her and Rachel. Rachel, the witch, is coming to grips with the idea that she is or may be a demon (or at least descended from demons). Trent, Rachel’s frenemy, is openly embracing being an elf and sets off on an elf quest. Others join this strange quartet as they drive cross country to attend Rachel’s hearing before the Coven. 
In previous books Rachel had been shunned as a black witch (a witch performing black or demon magic), and although she thinks that she can have the shunning removed she is also aware that she may never be openly accepted for what she is…witch and demon. She must battle a day-walking demon, definitely something new, while dealing with the stress of what awaits her at and after her trial. For a brief moment I thought that this might be the end of Rachel and her escapades, and I had to ask myself if I was ready to be through with Rachel and her troubled life. The answer is no. Although there are some series that play out after a few books (but the authors keep plugging away for a few more books just to keep the series going), Ms. Harrison and the Rachel Morgan series do not fall into that category. All things considered, this was a decent read and a nice twist to the series. I anxiously await reading about Rachel’s fate in future books.




I’ll be taking a brief break from my paranormal/fantasy reading so that I can read and review some soon-to-be-published books, courtesy of netGalley and Hyperion. The first in this list of advanced reading titles will be The Twisted Thread by Charlotte Bacon, scheduled to be released on June 14, 2011.