A Book Addict's Musings by Readinghearts

Reviews of books that I have read along with discussions, commentaries, book lists, and just general thoughts on books and reading. 

Friday's Reveiw: The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

The Winter People - Jennifer McMahon
This book was provided by the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for my review

Genre:  Thriller

Page Count: 336
List Price:  $25.95 Print
                   $10.99 Digital 
Publication Date:  February 11, 2014
Publisher:  Doubleday

My Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars

One of the best things about writing reviews for book and blogging is that you come across wonderful new authors that you have not read before.  Established author Jennifer McMahon is a perfect example.  Although The Winter People is her 7th novel, it is my first by here and I am so excited to find a new author to read. 

One day  19-year-old Ruthie awakens to find her mother has disappeared.  Ruthie lives in an old farmhouse in West Hall, Vermont with her mother Alice and her sister Fawn.  The same farmhouse where Sarah Harrison Shea lived in the early 1900s with her husband and daughter Gertie.  The same farmhouse  where Sarah was found dead just weeks after Gertie is killed in a tragic way.   
The book begins in 1908 when Sarah sees her first "sleepeer" (a person who has died and is temporarily brought back to life).  It continues through her diary which tells about her life, Gertie's death, and the aftermath.  Alternate chapters tell the story of Ruthie and her sister, and the search for their missing mother.  Telling the stories by alternating them can be confusing at times, but it this case Jennifer McMahon does an excellent job of weaving the two stories together seamlessly.   The excellent narrative hooked me from the beginning and my curiosity to see what would happen next kept me going.   
Although it was not apparent how the two stories connected in the beginning, this was not a problem at all.  Each story was compelling and filled with just the right amount of suspense.  In addition, the characters in the story were easy for me to become invested in, which also pulled me in quickly.  In addition to the main characters, there were several other characters who caught my interest, including Sarah's magical "Auntie" and the wife of a photographer who disappeared while researching Sarah's life.  Add to all this the inclusion of the ghostly as well as other supernatural elements that took the story to a seriously creepy level.  You know, the feeling you get when someone tells a really great ghost story after dark in the summer.  It certainly made me shiver several times, and not just because the story took place during a snow storm.  
As I said above, this is the first of Jennifer McMahon's books that I have read.  What I didn't say is that I have several others that I have never gotten a chance to read.  That will be remedied soon.  If you have never read anything by Jennifer McMahon, I recommend that you seek out her work, and The Winter People is a great place to start.  I am anticipating that the rest of her books are filled with the same excellent narrative, characters, and other elements as this one.
Source: http://abookaddictsmusings.blogspot.com/2014/03/fridays-reveiw-winter-people-by.html

Monday's Review: The Wishing Hill by Holly Robinson

The Wishing Hill: A Novel - Holly Robinson

Contemporary Fiction is such a broad category that to label the book as such is really not telling the reader anything. On the other hand, I am always a bit leery of labeling a book as Chick-Lit because I think that many readers make assumptions about the book based solely on that. In fact, I used to think that I was not a big fan of "chick-lit" but as I have read more and more books in this genre I realized that I do like chick-lit, but that I am just picky about the books I read. I find that if the characters have something other than the run of the mill personality or back story. I am more likely to enjoy the book. Likewise, if the plot is varied and the issues presented unique in some way, I am more likely to enjoy the book. The Wishing Hill by Holly Robinson fits both of these criteria for me.

The main characters in The Wishing Hill are three women whose lives are linked together in an unbreakable way, although we may not understand what that is at the beginning of the book. Juliet is a women coming up on middle age who finds herself suddenly on her own. Her husband has left her and the bohemian lifestyle they were living, leaving her surprised and wondering where her life is leading now. On top of it all, she finds herself unexpectedly pregnant after years of thinking that she is infertile. Desiree is Juliet's mother, an aging actress who is used to being the center of attention and afraid that life is passing her by. Claire, Desiree's neighbor, is a single woman in her 60s who has never married, but still is in love with the married man who she had an affair with in her early twenties. All of them are strong women in their own way. Even the male characters in this book were unique. In fact, I would love to read a book where any one of the male characters were the main focus, that is how interesting they seemed to be. From Will, Juliet's staid, middle class brother, all the way to the divorced contractor working on Juliet and Desiree's house.

The storyline of The Wishing Hill did not disappoint, either. It is more than just the a story of three women with intertwining lives. Although the main focus of the book is on how the three women's lives intersect, we are also treated to their separate stories, which I found very interesting. As with the male characters, I think that any one of these stories could have sustained a book all on their own. You might think that having all of the stories in one novel would be confusing, but Holly Robinson uses different points of view and travel between locations to weave them together until they make one seamless story.

Holly Robinson's insights and superb writing talent made this book a joy to read and one that I would easily recommend to my friends, or even buy for someone. As for me, I am looking forward to other novels by Holly and hope to read much more by her.

Thank you to Holly Robinson for making a copy of this book available through the Sisterhood of the Traveling Book in exchange for my review.

Source: http://abookaddictsmusings.blogspot.com/2014/03/mondays-review-wishing-hill-by-holly.html

Friday's Review: Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford

Songs of Willow Frost - Jamie Ford
This book was provided by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for my review

Genre:  Historical Fiction
Page Count:  352 pages
List Price:  $26.00 Hardback
                $15.00 Paperback
                $12.99 Digital                 
Publication Date:  September 10, 2013
Publisher:  Ballantine Books

My Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Early in my reading career, I read two books which started my fascination with other cultures, Hawaii by James Michener, and  James Clavell's Shogun.  My first real book about Asian culture in the US was Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club and since then I have been fascinated by Asian culture reading several books by Gail Tsukiyama, Lisa See, Amy Tan, and others.  I am happy to say that Jamie Ford's second novel,Songs of Willow Frost is another book that I can add to the list. 

Songs of Willow Frost is the poignant story of 12 year-old orphan William Eng and the beautiful Asian actress, Willow Frost.  While on a field trip to the theater from the orphanage where he lives, William is surprised to recognize the famous actress.  You see, William knew her when she was just an Asian beauty living in Seattle's Chinatown and going by the name of Lui Song.  William becomes convinced that he has to meet Willow, to see if she still recognizes him.  When she does, both Willow and William are thrust back into the stories of their past. 

This book worked for me on several levels.  The story flowed well, keeping me interested in the pages to come.  Although I liked the part when William was in the orphanage, and I liked this relationship with Charlotte, by far my favorite part of the book was when Willow was telling the story about her life as Lui Song.  I thought that her story painted a really good picture of what life would have been like for someone in her position, containing just the right amount of sorrow and depression without being too negative.  In addition, I liked the way that her story highlighted the prejudices of the time period, and the strictness of the Asian culture.

One of the things that especially spoke to me was the way that William ended up in the orphanage.  This book takes place during a time period when many families could not support themselves and resorted to leaving their children in an orphanage.  My own grandmother and her brothers and sisters were dropped at an orphanage for that reason.  Things were different then, and for some families, this is the only way that they could cope.  For that reason, I really appreciated the way that the orphanage in this book was portrayed, and the decisions that Willow had to make regarding William and what was best for both of them.  Although the ending of the book was a bit ambiguous, given the history of the time and the culture that William and Willow belonged to, I thought that it fit the story.

A lot of people have said that, although they liked this book, it was not as good and Jamie Ford's debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.  I, myself, have not read that book, so I cannot speak to how this one stacks up, but for me, this book was a beautifully written and wonderful trip into a time and culture that I can only read about.  For that reason, I give it 4 stars and would recommend it as a must read book. 
Source: http://abookaddictsmusings.blogspot.com/2014/02/fridays-review-songs-of-willow-frost-by.html

Friday's Review: The King's Hounds by Martin Jensen.

The King's Hounds (The King's Hounds series) - Martin Jensen
This book was provided by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for my review


Genre: Historical Mystery
Page Count: 272
List Price:  $14.95 Paperback
                 $9.99 Digital Edition
                 $4.99 Kindle
Publication Date:  October 29, 2013
Publisher: Amazon Crossing

My Rating:  3.5 of 5 stars

As a person who really enjoys both mysteries and historical fiction, historical mysteries are often fun reads for me.  The recent translation of Danish author Martin Jensen's book The King's Houndswas just that type of book.  The story is set in 1018, the time when the Danish King Cnut has conquered England and is busy trying to get all of the factions under his control to coalesce into a single unified country.  Unfortunately for him, a South Saxon who is known to be Cnut's enemy is found murdered.  Enter Winston, ex-monk and highly regarded Saxon illuminator, and Halfdan, a Danish ex-noble, exactly the combination  King Cnut needs in order to solve the crime without raising complaints of favoritism.
The story of Winston and Halfdan, and their quest to solve the murder of Oxfrid works on many levels.  Like all good mysteries of this type, we are presented with a dead body who in life had enough enemies to present us with a long list of possible suspects. In addition, the crime solvers are an unlikely pair of contrasting characters.  Not only do they represent opposite sides of the current political scene, thus giving the aura of objectivity, but they also represent very different styles of solving a puzzle.  While Winston's approach keys on observation and deduction, Halfdan is more outgoing and able to get people to talk to him.   Jensen's historical representation of the time is also spot on.  Through the inclusion of real historical figures, events and terms, and his accurate description of life in 1018 England, we get a glimpse of life during a time that is not widely covered in historical fiction. Add to all that the excellent translation from Danish which allows the story to flow seemlessly in English, and it all comes together as a definite win. 

Although I would not put this story in the "earth shattering" category, I would recommend it to those of you who enjoy a good mystery , especially those that like their mystery with a bit of history included.  As for me, I am looking forward to readingThe Oathbreaker, the second book of the series, and sincerely hope that there are plans to translate even more of them to English.  For one thing, I am anxious to see how the relationship between Winston and Halfdan develops as I think there is a lot of room for growth there.  

Source: http://abookaddictsmusings.blogspot.com/2014/02/fridays-review-kings-hounds-by-martin.html

Monday's Review: How to be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman

How To Be a Good Wife - Emma  Chapman

Emma Chapman's debut novel "How to be a Good Wife" is a well written, compelling read with many layers, all of which revolve around the main character, Marta. Marta has been married to Hector for a long time. In fact, all of her adult life has been spent catering to him, their marriage, and their son Kylan. Now with Hector becoming distant and Kylan living in the city with his girlfriend, she has a lot of time on her own. But time on her own is not what Marta wants or needs. 

As the book unfolds, the author reveals more and more about Marta, and what we learn, or do not learn as the case may be, is what made Marta's story such a compelling read for me. On first impression, Marta's life seems to be comfortable and mundane. She has reached middle age, raised her son, taken care of her husband. On closer examination, though, there are gaps and inconsistencies. Why does she keep finding cigarettes in her pocket with memory of smoking them? What is the medication that she has stopped taking? Before long Marta's story peels off into a couple of directions with no real explanation of what is fact and what is fiction. These different aspects of her story continue all the way to the conclusion of the story which I did not see coming at all. 

All of this ambiguity in the story may set some readers on edge, but I found it interesting and thought provoking. I also found the ambiguity to be a great discussion point among readers. In fact, when discussing this book with others, I was extremely interested to see how many different ways to interpret the story people were able to find. All that discussion and differing viewpoints only enriched the story for me, enough so that I wasn't upset that the author ended the story without answering the most important questions posed throughout. That is not to say that I didn't find the ending disappointing, but my disappointment was in Marta and her choices, not with the story or the author. 

I would definitely recommend this book as a thought provoking read, with one caveat. Keep an open mind as you read it and wait until you are finished to draw any conclusions. Then discuss away with others and see what conclusions they came to and how they arrived at them. I guarantee the discussion will be lively.

My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for making this book available to me in exchange for my review.

Source: http://abookaddictsmusings.blogspot.com/2014/02/mondays-review-how-to-be-good-wife-by.html

Monday's Review: Pecan Pie and Deadly Lies by Nancy Naigle

Pecan Pie and Deadly Lies - Nancy Naigle

Caveat: This book is a sequel to Out of Focus and is better if read in order.


I have been hooked on Nancy Naigle's Adams Grove series of novels since the first book, Sweet Tea and Secrets. Her current entry to the series, Pecan Pie and Deadly Lies is perhaps my favorite one of the bunch. As the first three books in the Adam's Grove series, Pecan Pie and Deadly Lies is a love story with a mystery throw in, a genre which Nancy Naigle is a master at.


As Pecan Pie opens, photographer Kasey Phillips is living on her farm outside of Adams Grove. She is still a photographer, still raising her son, and still best friends with the local Sheriff, when Country superstar Cody Tuggle calls to ask if he and "the boys" can stay at her place for a few days during a break in their current tour. Once there, he and Kasey rekindle the feelings that were unresolved at the end of Out of Focus, while Kasey was traveling with Cody to work on a book of photographs about his tour. While there, someone murders Cody's agent and makes sure that the evidence points directly to Cody. Cody heads home to Oklahoma to sort things out, taking Kasey and her son Jake with him.


I have read all four of the Adams Groves novels, and while I liked them all, I think my favorite so far is Pecan Pie and Deadly Lies. What makes this my favorite is a couple of things. First, it brings back two of my favorite main characters from the second book, Kasey and Cody. Secondly, in this book, as in the first Kasey and Cody book, the balance between the mystery story line and the romance story line was perfect. This is a skill that Nancy Naigle has perfected as the Adams Grove series has progressed.

As with the other books from Adams Grove, this story was also peppered with an excellent cast of supporting characters. Nancy is a master at developing characters, giving them personality traits and behaviors that make them very real, and at integrating them into the story in a way that makes them integral to the story. I became especially fond of Cody's mother, Denise. I also really like the way that Nancy takes supporting characters from her books and makes them the main characters in further editions in the series. I can think of several characters in this book that I would like to see that happen to.


All in all, I would class this book as another enjoyable read from Nancy Naigle and a must read for those who love the combination of romance and light mystery. If you haven't yet read any of the Adam's Grove novels, I would recommend them all. I hope that Nancy Naigle has many more Adams Grove books up here sleeve. I know she has a least one more, Mint Julep and Justice, which I will be reading soon and reviewing.


Thanks to Nancy Naigle and the Sisterhood of the Traveling Book for making this book available in exchange for my review.

Source: http://abookaddictsmusings.blogspot.com/2014/02/mondays-review-pecan-pie-and-deadly.html

Monday's Review: Quiet Dell by Jayne Anne Phillips

Quiet Dell: A Novel - Jayne Anne Phillips

Quiet Dell is a novel based on a series of actual murders committed in the 1930s by a man calling himself Harry Powers. He does this by preying on widows who are writing to him via the Lonely Hearts Club, looking for someone to talk to and a bit of companionship. In the blurb at the beginning Jayne Anne Phillips states that in her youth she was driven by the scene of the murders and the impression that left has haunted her, eventually compelling her to write this novel.


Not being familiar with the work of Jayne Anne Phillips, (this is the first novel by the author that I have read) I was not sure what to expect. The hook for me, then, was that the basis of this book was a real crime. Since reading In Cold Blood in high school, I have been fascinated by real crime stories, whether they be fictional representations or non-fiction accounts. In the case of Quiet Dell, the first few chapters definitely lived up to my expectations. This section of the book depicts the story of Ana Eicher, a widow with three children, who has no skills and no way to make a living now that her husband has died. The author describes the current life of Ana and her children with heart-breaking clarity and emotion. I was definitely immersed in their story quickly.


In fact, I would give a 4 star rating to the beginning of the book, all the way to the part where the murders are discovered. At this point, the author introduces her first fictional characters, a female journalist by the name of Emily Thornhill and a photographer by the name of Eric Lindstrom, who are covering the story for the Chicago Tribune. This is where the books falls apart for me. It's not that Emily and Eric are not solid characters. I actually liked the way that the author used Emily's compulsion to find out the truth about Harry Powers as a catalyst to take the reader through the investigation of his life. It is Emily's romantic involvement with banker William O'Malley that I felt was not only unnecessary to the story, but actually a distraction from the investigation into the murders that should have made up the rest of the book. For me this error was compounded by two other items that author chose to include in the latter part of the book. These were the use of the youngest Eicher child, Anabelle, as a "supernatural" character (Think Susie in The Lovely Bones), and the inclusion of the "orphan" story. Neither of these devices did anything to enhance the basic story line, in my opinion.


To sum it up, I copy a quote that I saw on Amazon which is purported to be from People Magazine. It says, "Think In Cold Blood meets The Lovely Bones, but sexier." To me, that sums it up pretty well. Unfortunately, I would have liked a bit more of the In Cold Blood part and a lot less of the The Lovely Bones and sexy parts.


As I said above, I am not familiar with Jayne Anne Phillips other work, but I have heard that this is not her usual fare. For that reason, and the fact that parts of this book were very well written, I plan to try one of the author's other books in the future.


I would like to that Scribner and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my review.

Source: http://abookaddictsmusings.blogspot.com/2014/01/mondays-review-quiet-dell-by-jayne-ann.html

Friday's Review: A Christmas Daughter by Kathleen Valentine

The Christmas Daughter: A Marienstadt Story - Kathleen Valentine
I read my first Kathleen Valentine book, Homemade Pie and Sausage/Killing Julie Morris in October 2011 and quickly followed it up with Ghosts of a Beach Town in Winter and The Mermaid's Tale. Since that time, Kathleen's books have become some of my favorites, with The Mermaid's Tale being listed in my all time top ten.  Her books and stories continue to delight me, and her newest one, The Christmas Daughter: A Mariendstadt Story is no exception.  But don't let the title fool you....although parts of this story take place around Christmas time, and Christmas definitely plays a roll in the story, this is not just a Christmas story.  It is a story that can be enjoyed at any time, and should not be missed. 
Boone Wild left Marienstadt many years ago, but now that his father is dead, he returns home to help his mother sort things out and decides to stay and restore the family business to its former glory. Once the business is up and running, and during a New Year's Eve party at the Wilde Tavern, he receives a phone call from an old girlfriend who he hasn't seen in 13 years.  She drops two bombshells; they have a twelve year old daughter named Charity, and Charity needs a place to live now that her mother is dying.  Boone drops everything to rush to pick up Charity and bring her back to live in Marienstadt.  
This story was a delight from start to finish.  As always, Kathleen's characters are wonderfully developed and easy to get involved with.  In no time I found myself rooting for Boone and his new daughter, hoping that Boone could bring Charity out of her shell, and that Charity could help Boone settle down.  I fell in love with the entire Wilde family, not only Boone and Charity, but also Sister John Paul and his mother, Winnie.  By the end of the book, I found myself wishing that the Wilde's were my family and that I lived in Marienstadt. While this story was mainly about them, there were several minor characters in the story that caught my interest and that I am hoping play a bigger role in other Marienstadt stories.  
Yes, this story is not the first of Kathleen's Marienstadt stories.  That said, reading the others is not a prerequisite to reading this story.  Although I own the rest of the books in the series, (The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall, Volumes 1, 2, and 3)  I have yet to be able to read them.  However, that did not slow me down one bit while reading this story, nor did I feel lost by not reading the other stories.  In fact, I was very pleased with the way that Kathleen was able to make The Christmas Daughter a story that was complete by itself, while still making me feel that there is much more to learn about the Wilde family and all of the other inhabitants of Marienstadt. 

My conclusion is that Marienstadt is a magical place that I would like to spend more time in.  The people are friendly and multi-faceted, the area is steeped in tradition, and the values of the inhabitants are the type that appeal to me.  I was actually delighted with the Pennsylvania Dutch background of the area and inhabitants and how similar it was to my Midwest German upbringing.  I am eagerly looking forward to reading the rest of Kathleen's stories about this wonderful town and its people. 


Source: http://abookaddictsmusings.blogspot.com/2014/01/fridays-review-christmas-daughter-by.html

Wednesday's Review: Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen

Mrs. Poe - Lynn Cullen
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for my review
Genre: Historical Fiction
Page Count: 336
List Price: $26.00 Hardback
               $11.99 Digital Edition
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher : Gallery Books
My Ratings: 3.75 out of 4 stars
Contrary to what the title might indicate, this book is not a fictional account of the life of Edgar Allen Poe's wife.  Instead author Lynn Cullen presents us with a story narrated by American Poet Francis Osgood regarding the complex relationship between herself, Poe, his wife, Virginia.   Although most of Cullen's book is pure fiction, she begins with a few kernels of truth.  Francis Osgood did meet her husband Charles in the manner included in the book.  He did leave her to fend for herself in NY with their children.  Francis Osgood did have a relationship of sorts with Poe, they did spend time together and correspond with each other.  Poe's wife, Virginia, was sickly and did help foster the relationship between her husband and Osgood.  In fact, biographers say that Virginia Poe actually helped to foster the relationship as she felt that Osgood was a good influence on the unstable Poe.  Most everything else in Cullen's story is pure fiction, which she uses to tell a great story about one of the most interesting figures in American writing.  
I really enjoyed the way that Cullen took a historical relationship that was not ordinary to begin with, and made it into a complex interaction between three people who lived unconventional lives.  Through the character of Francis Osgood we get a glimpse of how life was for women writers in the the mid 19th century.  A time when women were still trying to be taken seriously in the field of prose.   Cullen's Poe is a man at war with himself and his various demons.  Given Poe's reputation and his writing, this Poe is entirely believable.  Even the sickly Virginia Poe gets to be more than just a "behind the scenes" character.  I also enjoyed the cameo appearances by other historical figures such as John Astor, Louisa May Allcott, and Walt Whitman and the little historical tidbits that she included such as the origin of the graham cracker.   
When all was said and done, though, the thing that I liked the most about this book was the way that Lynn Cullen used Edgar Allen Poe and his life to craft a very Poe-like story.  As the story progresses I began to suspect that something else was going on besides just the historical recounting of the possible relationship between these three people.  Just like a Poe story this book takes a bit of a dark turn, which kept me engaged and came to a satisfying conclusion. 
Yes, I was drawn to this book by the title and the idea that it would focus on the life of Poe and his wife, I found, though, that I really enjoyed the story as presented, as well as appreciating the amount of research Cullen did in order to be able to insert the historical kernels that were in the story.  So if you are looking for an interesting take on the story of  Poe, Virginia, and Osgood,  one with a bit of a fanciful twist, this is the book for you.  If you are looking for a serious biography about Poe or his wife, I would skip it.   
Source: http://abookaddictsmusings.blogspot.com/2014/01/wednesdays-reveiw-mrs-poe-by-lynn-cullen.html
Hell Gate - Elizabeth Massie

In her novel Hell Gate, Elizabeth Massie tells a riveting story that defies the boundaries in many ways. In fact, it took me a while to decide what genre to list for it. The fact that it is set in 1909 on Coney Island might make it Historical Fiction. The murders and police investigation might indicate a Mystery or Police Procedural. The fact that the main character has "the sight" brings in an element of the Paranormal genre. In the end, it was the overall feeling of a good Horror story that won out, though.

With respect to her depection of Coney Island in the early 1900s, Massie certainly did her research. Her descriptions of the sights, sounds, smells, and even tastes, made me feel like I was really there experiencing the thrills and chills of the area. I also enjoyed the flashbacks of Suzanne's early life with her mother and her life in the boarding school. She was able to describe Suzanne's feelings of confusion perfectly and use them to help illustrate the recurring theme of societies fear of the unusual. This theme was also illustrated with the treatment Suzanne received from the police as she helped with their investigation, and the treatment that Citie received when he tried to spend time with Suzanne. Other than its usefulness in this way, I felt that the mystery part of the story was the weakest. This is the only place where the story faltered for me, and I was disappointed that there wasn't more to it.


The best part of the story overall, though, was the horror story line. I thought that Massie's characterization of the girls in the boarding school was fantastic. I thought she did an excellent job of weaving the undercurrent of horror and evil through this story. It both scared and disturbed me, which is what I expect from a good horror story line. The icing on the cake for this story was the way she lead the reader to the eventual conclusion. Her use of subterfuge and slight of hand were wonderful and the unexpected ending left me feeling pleasantly surprised.


I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone who likes a good horror story with a historical undertone. It was definitely well worth the read.


I would like to thank DarkFuse publishing and Netgalley for making this title available to me in exchange for a review.

Source: http://abookaddictsmusings.blogspot.com/2013/12/tuesdays-review-hell-gate-by-elizabeth.html

Tuesday's Review: Unseen by Karen Slaughter

Unseen - Karin Slaughter
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for my review. 
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Page Count: 400
List Price: Hardcover - $27.00
               Digital Edition - $10.99
Publication Date: July 2, 2013
Publisher: Delacorte Press
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
What could be better than a series of thrillers written by an author with the last name Slaughter.  When I first came across her Grant County series, I was amazed at how apropos the authors name was.  As that series unfolded, Karin Slaughter solidified herself as one of my favorite thriller authors.  You know the kind, the ones whose next book you eagerly await, and whose books you know you will read without hesitation.  You just know that they are going to deliver a top notch product and that they will not disappoint you.  As I read each book in the Grant County series I fell more and more in love with Slaughter's characters and writing.  I was hugely disappointed, then, to find out that the series was coming to an end.  I should have known that the author wouldn't leave me hanging.  In fact, Slaughter was astute enough to realize that a small Georgia town would not be able to sustain the level of crime necessary to support an ongoing series.  What she did to overcome this problem, is begin a new series with a change of venue and a more appropriate organization as the focal point.  Enter Will Trent, an investigator for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation centered in Atlanta.  The switch to Atlanta allowed for a venue more acceptable for the level and type of crime needed to keep the series viable.  The focus on the GBI allowed for future changes in location, keeping the series from stagnating.  What was even more amazing about these changes is, after establishing her new central character, she seamlessly combined the new series with the Grant County series, making this fan happier than ever.  
 Unseen is listed as the 7th book in Karin Slaughter's Will Trent mystery/thriller series, although it is actually the latest in the series of books that combines both the Grant County characters and the Atlanta characters. 
As the book begins, we find Will working on an undercover assignment in Macon, Georgia. Interestingly enough, Macon just happens to be where our old friend Lena Adams has settled after she left Grant County. Things begin to heat up as Will and Lena's paths cross.  As any fan of the series knows, if Lena is involved, there is bound to be plenty of trouble.  This book is no different in that respect, and as the story continues, Will and Lena's seemingly unrelated story lines merge, though not necessarily in the way that I expected.  Slaughter is a master in the use of twist and turns in the plot of her stories, and many of her books contain those "Ah Ha," moments that make a good mystery so much fun to read.  Her stories are action packed, and although there is violence and evil, as all good thrillers must have, it is not over the top or gratuitous, just the right level of both to make the story believable.  
One of the things that I have come to love the most about Slaughter's books are her characters.  Slaughter's characters are all undeniably human with all the complexity that suggests.  In fact, reading this book was like going home for a visit and getting caught up with family and friends.  You know they are going to make you laugh, or shake you head in wonder when they make a decision that doesn't seem to make sense.  I found myself, once again, being amazed by their actions, yelling at them when I could see they were making the wrong decision, crying with them, celebrating with them, and in the end, feeling like they haven't changed a bit.  Will is still a troubled soul, Sara is still too nice, Lena is still clueless about what really matters, Faith is still trying to hold them all together, and Amanda was still the ball buster I have come to count on. I was glad that Angie did not make an appearance in this book, but I am willing to bet that she is not far away and will make her presence known in an upcoming book.  
If you are a fan of the mystery - suspense - thriller genre, I cannot recommend these books highly enough.  As series go, both the Grant County books and the Atlanta books are top notch, and as mystery/thrillers go, they are among my favorites.   If you are a fan of Karin Slaughter and have read the other books in her series, then I am probably preaching to the choir.  If you have not, I recommend that you start with the Grant County books to get the background of the characters from that series, and continue with the Will Trent books, where Slaughter really comes in to her own.  
Source: http://abookaddictsmusings.blogspot.com/2013/12/tuesdays-review-unseen-by-karen.html

Thursday's Review: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock - Matthew Quick

I have to admit, my first thought when I finished this book was, "hmmm, that was interesting." In fact, I wasn't really sure what I was going to rate it, much less how I was going to review it. The one thing that I knew was that it was different from any other book I have ever read. In the two weeks since I finished the book, it hasn't gotten any easier to define my feelings, except to say that this was a book of contrasts for me. It was filled with moments of clarity and confusion, profound quotes and wasted words, important insights and trite excuses and a jumbled mass of Leonard's present and past. 

Perhaps it is easiest to start with an overview of the story. It is Leonard Peacock's birthday, and for his birthday he has decided to kill his former best friend, Asher Beal, and then himself. Before he can do that, though, he has a present to give to the 4 people that he considers the most important in his life. Sounds straightforward, doesn't it? But nothing about this book is straightforward. Not the writing style that Quick uses, not the motivations of the characters, and certainly not the mind of Leonard Peacock. To say that Leonard is damaged goods is an understatement. From the beginning it is apparent that he is one of those kids in high school that just don't fit in anywhere, but the why is a lot less clear. As Leonard tells his story, we are given a lot of the events in his life that led to this point. What we don't get much of is the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of the characters that lead to these events. 

One of the most interesting things about this book was the writing style that Matthew Quick used to tell the story. The basic events of the story are told by Leonard in narrative form. As such, this part of the book does not give much insight into what the characters are thinking or feeling. We are treated to the inner workings of Leonard's mind, though, in the form of footnotes to the narrative. These are mostly the rambling of Leonard's inner mind and, as such, they have a more conversational and intimate tone. It is here that we get more of a feel for Leonard's emotional well being and state of mind. Then there are the letters. They appeared out of nowhere, leaving me confused as to their purpose at first. In the end, I was left wondering whether all these contrasting story devices and the confusion that are their result are a the mark of an author who has lost control of his story, or the result of a genius who is using them to illustrate the contrasts and confusion of the character that is Leonard Peacock. It would be easy to dismiss them as the former, but that would be doing the book a disservice, I think. In the end, I found that using the various devices worked for a couple of reasons. First, I thought they worked to show the different facets of Leonard's character. Secondly, they allowed me to feel some of the confusion that Leonard's life had become and the conflicting emotions he had about himself. 

What I found most disturbing about the book, was the lack of awareness of any of the adults in Leonard's life. In fact, of all of the adults that we encounter in the story, only one seems to have any idea that things in Leonard's life are about to spin out of control. The rest of the adults, from Leonard's absentee mother on down through the school administrators and teachers, seem determined to let Leonard down. The ones that are not incredibly self-absorbed, seem bent on pretending that everything is normal and either there is nothing to worry about, or if there is, there is nothing they can do about it. Admittedly, the story is being told from the viewpoint of a student, who is likely to see the adults as shallow and self-absorbed. Even so, I felt that there was an important lesson for adults here. 

Bottom line, this is not a book for everyone, that is for sure. As a reader, though, I found that it elicited strong feelings and for that reason I am giving it 4 stars. Some readers may find the jumble of story telling devices confusing, or Leonard's attitude either too whiny, to wrapped up in excuses, or just not realistic. I found that those items were the ones that made me think and ultimately to question what I was reading. Given the subject of this book, I think that is an important outcome. My one caveat is that I was left feeling that this book could be either a positive influence on a teenager, or a negative one, depending on the reader. I actually told one friend I was not sure how I would feel about my sons read it if they were a teenagers, but I could certainly see it starting some good discussions. My advice as a parent is to look at the book yourself, and then determine if it is right for your teenager. 

My thanks to Little, Brown, and Company and Netgalley for making this book available to me in exchange for a review.

Source: http://abookaddictsmusings.blogspot.com/2013/11/thursdays-review-forgive-me-leonard.html

Thursday's Review: Margot by Jillian Cantor

Margot: A Novel - Jillian Cantor

Another in the list of books about WWII and its aftermath, Margot by Jillian Cantor puts forth the supposition, what if Anne Frank's older sister had survived the war?  The author herself says that she got the idea while reading The Diary of Anne Frank for the second time.  She began to wonder, what of the other sister, Margot?  Did she keep a diary, too?  What was she like?  Apparently, after doing some research, she found that not much information exists about Anne's less famous sister.  This opened the door for a fictional story about surviving the holocaust with Margot as the central character.


It is 1959. and the movie The Diary of Anne Frank has just hit the theaters in the US.  Margie Franklin is living a quiet life in Philadelphia and working for a law firm.    But Margie is really Margot Frank, the older sister of Anne, who was able to survive the holocaust.  She eventually makes her way to America where she changes her identity, re-inventing herself as a Gentile.  Once her father publishes Anne's Diary and it is made into a movie, her new life starts to unravel, bit by bit.  


Once I picked up Margot, I found it very hard to put down.  The story alternated between the story of Margie, the girl hiding in America, and Margot, the girl hiding in the annex in Amsterdam.  I was amazed at what a great job the author did presenting the two sides of the main character.  I was particularly impressed with the way she was able to craft a believable story of what Margot could have been like while still staying true to the words of Anne's diary.  On the other hand, Margie's life in America was all fiction, but incredibly well told and highly believable.  I could really put myself in the place of a person in her situation, her survivor's guilt, the elements of PTSD inherent in her situation, the ever prevalent fear that someone would discover the truth about her, and the constant inner struggle to not lose sight of who she was.  Through the author's words I was transported into Margie's mind in the best way.  


What really sold this book for me, though, was the fact that it was more than just a "what if" book about Margot Frank.  To me, it was really an exploration of the after effects of the holocaust on Jewish Americans. Some, like Margie, immigrated to America and re-invented themselves to create a distance between their new lives and their old ones.  Others, like Bryta, came to America looking for a better life, only to find themselves taken advantage of.  Then there were the American Jews, like Joshua, who were removed from the worst of the war and lived a relatively unscathed life, which brought on its own brand of survivor's guilt. Through the exploration of all of these characters, the author was able to craft a story that should not be missed.  


This was definitely a 5 star book for me and will be on my highly recommended list for quite a while.  I have yet to come across a book that deals with these issues in such a readable and believable fashion.  

Tuesday's Review: The Children of Henry VIII by John Guy

The Children of Henry VIII - John Guy
So much has been written to date about the Tudor Dynasty that you might wonder why an established historian like John Guy would spend the time to write about them.  Given the numerous volumes, both fictional and non-fiction, that have been devoted to Henry, his wives, and their offspring, the Tudors as a family are still a fascinating lot who draw readers to their story.  Even those of us who have read extensively about them over the years are always looking for some new fact or tidbit.  Some new twist to their story, which you must admit, is like a modern day soap opera.  And at the heart of all of the family drama is Henry VII, the man who would stop at nothing to keep his dynasty alive, who would use any means possible to change wives in his search for an heir to the throne, who had four living children, but no two from the same mother.  What lover of family drama wouldn't be drawn to this dynasty?  
When I was in my teens, I happened upon a book about one of Henry's six wives and that started a love affair with not only the Tudors, but the history of Royalty in general.  Their lives were so different from mine, I was fascinated by the pageantry, the political intrigues, and the family dynamics that were prevalent in their stories.  I learned early on to enjoy the fictional accounts of their lives, but to rely on the non-fiction accounts for perspective.  In that respect I am always looking for a good non-fiction book on Royalty to add to my collection, or to recommend to those looking for good books on the subject.

 John Guy's latest, The Children of Henry VIII, is a well written book covering the struggle of Henry VIII to procure an heir for the Tudor throne.  At just 258 pages it is a relatively quick read on the subject.  In addition, it presents the essential information in a way that is uncomplicated and easy to follow.  For those reasons, this would be an excellent book for anyone just beginning to read about the Tudors.  For those of us that are well versed in the subject, though, there is little new information.  I did, however, like the fact that this book contained a complete section on Henry Fitzroy, and did not just focus on the legitimate offspring.  I was also fascinated by the author's suggestion that Henry had a rare blood condition that may have been the root of his inability to father more than one living child by any one woman.  I had never heard this theory before and wish the author would have gone into a bit more depth on the subject. 

In fact, my biggest disappointment with this book overall was the lack of depth in general.  At times it seemed to me that the author was just skimming the surface of the subject, while I was looking for more detailed information on the children and their lives.  In fact, I felt the beginning of the book was more about Henry himself than the children's early lives.  The good news is that the lack of depth coupled with John Guy's extremely readable writing style makes this an excellent  book on Henry and his children for someone who is just starting to explore the Tudors. 

On the other hand, if you are like me and love all things Tudor, or never tire of reading about them, there is a bit of the new and different in this books that makes it worth the read. 


Source: http://abookaddictsmusings.blogspot.com/2013/11/tuesdays-review-children-of-henry-vii.html

Thursday's Review: Little Island by Katharine Britton

Little Island - Katharine Britton

Joy Little's life is changing. Her only child has just left for college, but instead of going with him on dorm move-in weekend, she is headed to her childhood home, Little Island, to attend her grandmother's memorial service. Although she loved her grandmother, spending the weekend on the Island with her parents and her twin siblings, Roger and Tamar, is not something she is looking forward to. Given their family history, family get-togethers for the Little family are tumultuous at best and Joy just does not know if she is up for the challenge.


Although basically Contemporary Fiction, Little Island falls into a class of books that I call "family drama" books. You know the type, books where we get a glimpse of a family that is struggling due to a past or present crisis. For me, enjoyment of books of this type hinge two things; how well the author handles the family's various crises, and how the author builds the characters and their relationships. I am happy to say, Katharine Britton did a great job of both in this book.


The characters in this book spoke to me right off the bat. The oldest sister, Joy, is going through empty nest syndrome, exhibiting feelings I am very familiar with since I have two sons in college. As the oldest sibling, then as a mom, her whole life has been about taking care of people. What is she supposed to do now? On the flip side, her sister Tamar is the youngest, and the one they "almost lost". As such, the other family members have danced around her all of her life. Now she finds herself as a wife and the mother of twins with no idea how to put anyone else first. Finally there is Roger, the one that was always in trouble, the cause of the families biggest crisis, a crisis that still defines them, and the one thing that has always defined his life. I though that the author did a wonderful job of developing these and other characters in the book, giving them the right mix of traits to allow me to empathize with them at times, and want to smack them at others., but always hoping they were able to break past the roles that defined them. Thus it was the characters in the book, especially the Little siblings, which allowed a predictable story line to become unpredictable.

Another thing that I liked about the book was the way the author told the family's story. While the bulk of the story took place during the weekend of the memorial service, part of it flashed back to 20 years prior, the time surrounding the crisis that defined the family. In addition, different chapters focused on the thoughts and feelings of different family members, giving each of them a chance to "tell their side of the story" so to speak. It was a method of telling the story that really worked for me.

Almost exactly two years ago, I read Katharine Britton's first book, Her Sister's Shadow, which I also rated 4 stars. As with that book, I enjoyed this book's interplay between the family members. What set this book apart and elevated it to that next level, for me, were the characters. I am glad to see that Katharine Britton has not lost her touch with story telling, and that her characters have even more personality than before. I would highly recommend this book to those who like books centered around families and drama.


Many thanks to Katharine Britton and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Book for allowing me to read this book in exchange for a review.

Source: http://abookaddictsmusings.blogspot.com/2013/11/thursdays-review-little-island-by.html

Tuesday's Review: The Boleyn King by Laura Andersen

Reblogged from A Book Addict's Musings by Readinghearts:
The Boleyn King - Laura Andersen
There were several things that drew me to Laura Andersen's book The Boleyn King.  First and foremost I love reading about historical figures, especially when it is about Royalty.   I cut my teeth on books written by Jean Plaidy, Norah Lofts, and the like and recently moved on to some of the greats like Sharon Kl Penman, C. W. Gortner and Elizabeth Chadwick.  Like many readers in this category, I have read numerous books about the Tudors, both fiction and non-fiction.  As a result, a book that poses the question..."What if Anne Boleyn had given birth to a son who lived, and who eventually grew up to be King" certainly caught my interest.  I think that most of us who have read extensively about the Tudor Dynasty have wondered just that same thing at one time or another.  
In the first book of her Boleyn King trilogy, Laura Andersen introduces us to William Tudor, son of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, younger brother or Elizabeth, and the newly crowned King Henry IX of England.  As William's 18th birthday approaches, he is preparing to take over the running of the kingdom from his Uncle George Boleyn, who has been serving as Regent and head of William's government.  Add to this the usual political intrigue that always seems to surround the Tudor court, or most Royal courts for that matter, a mystery that needs solving, wars that need attending to, and a love triangle and you have all of the elements of a top notch story. 
In spite of it's obvious departure from the facts, I am happy to say that the overall representation of the people and events in  this story is true to the nature of the times.    She certainly did her homework, and her depiction of such historical figures such as Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth Tudor, Mary Tudor, George Boleyn, and others such as the Percys and Robert Dudley, are spot on.  Her ability to stay true to their natures while including just the right amount of embellishment was fantastic.  In fact, she did such a good job with her portrayal of Elizabeth that she, rather than William, became my favorite character in the book.  
Another place where the author was perfectly on the mark was in the way she depicted the Tudor Court.  Here again we see her research manifest itself in the inclusion of political intrigues and court machinations that were so prevalent at the time.  Here again, she did a masterful job of blending the truth with a fiction in such a way that the end result came off as totally believable.  In fact,she did such a good job here that even my reading friends that are sticklers for truth in historical fiction ended up liking the book.   as for me, I was transported to the court of Henry IX, and did not want to leave. 
As I said above, this is the first book of a trilogy, the second of which is being released today . I, for one, am certainly excited as I did not want this book to end when it did.  It was one of those books where I just wanted a few more pages, a bit more time with the characters.  If you are a fan of historical fiction, royal courts, the Tudors, and especially Elizabeth I, I would strongly recommend reading this book.  It will be a thoroughly enjoyable experience. 
Many Thanks to Ballentine Books, Random House, and Netgalley for making this title available in exchange for a review. 
Source: http://abookaddictsmusings.blogspot.com/2013/11/tuesday-review-boleyn-king-by-laura.html

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