Monday, December 29, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: I Heard That Song Before by Mary Higgins Clark



ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

In a riveting psychological thriller, Mary Higgins Clark takes the reader deep into the mysteries of the human mind, where memories may be the most dangerous things of all.

At the center of her novel is Kay Lansing, who has grown up in Englewood, New Jersey, daughter of the landscaper to the wealthy and powerful Carrington family. Their mansion -- a historic seventeenth-century manor house transported stone by stone from Wales in 1848 -- has a hidden chapel. One day, accompanying her father to work, six-year-old Kay succumbs to curiosity and sneaks into the chapel. There, she overhears a quarrel between a man and a woman who is demanding money from him. When she says that this will be the last time, his caustic response is: "I heard that song before."

That same evening, the Carringtons hold a formal dinner dance after which Peter Carrington, a student at Princeton, drives home Susan Althorp, the eighteen-year-old daughter of neighbors. While her parents hear her come in, she is not in her room the next morning and is never seen or heard from again.

Throughout the years, a cloud of suspicion hangs over Peter Carrington. At age forty-two, head of the family business empire, he is still "a person of interest" in the eyes of the police, not only for Susan Althorp's disappearance but also for the subsequent drowning death of his own pregnant wife in their swimming pool.

Kay Lansing, now living in New York and working as a librarian in Englewood, goes to see Peter Carrington to ask for permission to hold a cocktail party on his estate to benefit a literacy program, which he later grants. Kay comes to see Peter as maligned and misunderstood, and when he begins to court her after the cocktail party, she falls in love with him. Over the objections of her beloved grandmother Margaret O'Neil, who raised her after her parents' early deaths, she marries him. To her dismay, she soon finds that he is a sleepwalker whose nocturnal wanderings draw him to the spot at the pool where his wife met her end.

Susan Althorp's mother, Gladys, has always been convinced that Peter Carrington is responsible for her daughter's disappearance, a belief shared by many in the community. Disregarding her husband's protests about reopening the case, Gladys, now terminally ill, has hired a retired New York City detective to try to find out what happened to her daughter. Gladys wants to know before she dies.

Kay, too, has developed gnawing doubts about her husband. She believes that the key to the truth about his guilt or innocence lies in the scene she witnessed as a child in the chapel and knows she must learn the identity of the man and woman who quarreled there that day. Yet, she plunges into this pursuit realizing that "that knowledge may not be enough to save my husband's life, if indeed it deserves to be saved." What Kay does not even remotely suspect is that uncovering what lies behind these memories may cost her her own life.

I Heard That Song Before once again dramatically reconfirms Mary Higgins Clark's worldwide reputation as a master storyteller.

MY REVIEW:

I had read a few Mary Higgins Clark books back when I was in high school and I loved them, so I was excited when I came across a couple of her books in a thrift store the other day.  Mary Higgins Clark is the queen of suspense novels, and I Heard That Song Before was as good as I remember her other books years ago.

Kay Lansing is the daughter of a landscaper to the extremely wealthy Carrington family. As a six-year-old, she accompanies her father to the Carrington estate one day and sneaks in to the hidden chapel where she overhears a conversation between a man and woman.  She never tells anyone at the time about what she heard because she would have to admit that she had wandered off where she was not supposed to be.

That evening, there is a party at the Carrington estate, after which Susan Althorp, a young debutante who lives down the road, goes missing.  Peter Carrington is the college-aged son of the Carrington  family at the time and he becomes the primary suspect.  Years later, Peter's pregnant wife drowns, furthering everyone's suspicions that he is a murderer, yet there was never enough evidence to put Peter away for either murder.

As an adult, Kay meets Peter and they fall madly in love, marrying one another within just a few weeks.  But shortly after their honeymoon, the events of Peter's past come back to haunt them both.  Susan Althorp's grieving mother, just diagnosed with a terminal illness, begins her final quest to put her daughter's murderer away once an for all.  When evidence is found, Peter is arrested, but Kay is convinced her husband is innocent and she fights to find the truth of what happened twenty years earlier.

If you like suspense, I highly recommend this one.



Monday, December 22, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: A Marriage Carol by Chris Fabry and Gary D Chapman



ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

On Christmas Eve twenty years earlier, Marlee and Jacob were married in a snowstorm. This Christmas Eve, they are ready to quit, divorce is imminent. Their relationship is as icy as the road they're traveling and as blocked with troubles as the piling snow. They take a shortcut to get to the lawyer's office, on a slippery, no-fault path. She thinks they need to stay on the main road. He disagrees. They fight. Story of their lives and they slam into a bank of snow , spinning, drifting, falling, out of control. Just like their lives. Reluctantly, freezing cold, hungry, scared, she trudges up the hill. Jacob is nowhere to be found. Her ears frozen, fingers and hands red, she comes to a house on the hillside, built like a Bed and Breakfast, a green wreath on the red door and the door-knocker is in the shape of a wedding ring.

The red door opens and the first thing she notices is the fire in the room, blazing hot, a warm, inviting, friendly place and the voice of an old man welcomes her in. There are three golden pots on the hearth, shining, glimmering things. The old man claims that they are used to restore marriages. She laughs-and begins a journey through her past, present, and future that will test how she views her lifelong love. There are two futures available. Which will she choose?

MY REVIEW:

On Christmas Eve (and their 20th anniversary) Marlee and Jacob set out to meet with their lawyer and sign their divorce papers. They'd tried everything -- counseling, retreats, countless books, but Marlee believes it's a lost cause.  Their love has died.

"When do we tell the children?" It begins.

But on their way to the lawyer's office, the snowstorm picks up and the car crashes.  Marlee finds her way to a nearby house where an old man takes her in, keeps her safe and warm and shares with her three golden pots which reveal the past, present and future of her marriage.

I'm sure you can guess the ending, but it's not about that exactly.  "It's about making good choices. It's putting one foot in front of the other on a good path, on that will lead you to a place down the road you can be proud of, no matter what response you get."

I recommend this book for anyone who is married.  It's a very quick read -- I read it in just a couple of hours.



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson



ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

When Jenny Lawson was little, all she ever wanted was to fit in. That dream was cut short by her fantastically unbalanced father and a morbidly eccentric childhood. It did, however, open up an opportunity for Lawson to find the humor in the strange shame-spiral that is her life, and we are all the better for it.

In the irreverent Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson’s long-suffering husband and sweet daughter help her uncover the surprising discovery that the most terribly human moments—the ones we want to pretend never happened—are the very same moments that make us the people we are today. For every intellectual misfit who thought they were the only ones to think the things that Lawson dares to say out loud, this is a poignant and hysterical look at the dark, disturbing, yet wonderful moments of our lives.

MY REVIEW:

Jenny Lawson is a blogger (a.k.a. The Bloggess) who left her job in HR to see if she could write a book. Let's Pretend This Never Happened is that product of that endeavor. It is a collection of "mostly true" stories from Jenny's life -- from hilarious stories of growing up in Texas with a father who was a taxidermist and unbelievable tales from her years of working in HR to her very real struggles with multiple miscarriages, an eating disorder and depression.

Whether or not her stories are completely true, some will make you laugh out loud and a few may even make you cry. I enjoy humor books and thought this was definitely worth the read even though there were a few times where it felt a little bit rambly.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened is definitely not for you if you are offended by language.


Monday, October 20, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: My Sister's Grave by Robert Dugoni


ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Tracy Crosswhite has spent twenty years questioning the facts surrounding her sister Sarah’s disappearance and the murder trial that followed. She doesn’t believe that Edmund House—a convicted rapist and the man condemned for Sarah’s murder—is the guilty party. Motivated by the opportunity to obtain real justice, Tracy became a homicide detective with the Seattle PD and dedicated her life to tracking down killers.

When Sarah’s remains are finally discovered near their hometown in the northern Cascade mountains of Washington State, Tracy is determined to get the answers she’s been seeking. As she searches for the real killer, she unearths dark, long-kept secrets that will forever change her relationship to her past—and open the door to deadly danger.

MY REVIEW:

This book was offered for free through the "Kindle First" program.  It seemed an appropriate pick for October, so I downloaded it and was immediately hooked.  It will be available on Amazon beginning November 1, 2014, but is currently available for pre-order.

Tracy Crosswhite is a homicide detective in Seattle.  She was drawn to the profession a few years after her life took a dramatic turn for the worst when her younger sister disappeared.  Tracy was never fully convinced that the man who was arrested for her sister's murder had received a fair trial. There were too many questions left unanswered. Tracy spent 20 years desperately trying to put the missing pieces together, until a body is found and Tracy has another chance to get to the bottom of the story once and for all. 

The story is dramatic and suspenseful.  It has the reader questioning many of the characters along with Tracy until the truth finally comes out in the end. If you like fiction - mystery/suspense, I highly recommend it. My only word of caution is to make sure you have plenty of time to read this book once you open it because you will not want to put it down!









Tuesday, September 30, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: A Cold and Broken Hallelujah by Tyler Dilts


ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

My favorite crime novels care about the victim. They don't forget that a person—albeit a fictional one—died to put the story in motion. Tyler Dilts's protagonist, detective Danny Beckett, cares about the deceased when no one else does. He's on a mission to discover who the dead man was and what brought him to the circumstances of his final days. There's a heart to this mystery that is both tender and broken.

Tyler uses the framework of the investigation to communicate something about the human condition. We are, he shows us, more than just a name, a social security number, a height, weight, shoe size, eye color. We strive to connect, to be understood—and Beckett wants to understand the victim of this terrible crime. He inventories the dead man's shopping cart, which contains all his earthly possessions.

To tell the story of the man, Beckett has "Fleece blanket, recently laundered" the way Hemingway had "Baby shoes, never worn." The detective pieces together an identity for the dead man so he can understand the world that killed him.

Tyler has crafted both their stories carefully, as one man's death leads another man to face the missing pieces of his own life.

MY REVIEW:

A Cold and Broken Hallelujah is a short, easy read.  It's a crime story that grabbed my attention with the shock of a homeless man being burned to death by a group of teenagers, and then kept me hooked through the suspense of the investigation. 

We get to know Detective Danny Beckett as he investigates the case.  As a hard-working police officer in Long Beach with a couple of side stories from his past to help us understand who he is, Danny is a very likeable character.  He obsesses over the case and needs to find out who the victim was - not just for identification purposes but for a deeper reason that Danny himself doesn't quite understand.

When I first finished the book I felt a slight lack of closure, but then as I had time to let it sink in I realized that the "end of the story" wasn't what it was about.  Dilts purposefully leaves the reader with some deeper things to think about.  It's a crime story with a life lesson and I enjoyed it.  I would not hesitate to read more by Dilts.






Thursday, July 17, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry


ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Winner of the Anthony Award for Best First Novel, the Agatha Award for Best First Novel, and the Mary Higgins Clark Award

When she sees what looks like a child tumbling from a ferry into frigid Lake Champlain, Troy Chance dives in without thinking. When she gets the child to shore she discovers that his name is Paul, he speaks only French—and no one seems to be looking for him.

Her determination to protect Paul pulls Troy from her quiet life in a small Adirondack town into an unfamiliar world of wealth and privilege in Canada and then in Vermont. Her attachment to him—and the danger she faces when she tries to unravel the mystery of his abandonment—force her to evaluate everything she thought true about herself.

Sara J. Henry's riveting, award-winning debut will keep readers engrossed right up to its shattering conclusion.

MY REVIEW:

I'd never heard of this book or the author before, but I accidentally came across it somewhere and it sounded interesting so I thought I would give it a try.  I could not put this book down.  The story grabbed me from the very beginning and then there was mystery, suspense and a subtle romance that kept me hooked until the very end.

Troy Chance is the heroine who rescues a young boy and then makes some risky decisions in order to keep him safe. As she discovers more about who he is and where he came from, she also discovers more about herself.  There is a twist toward the end that might be slightly unbelievable, but it's easy to forgive because the story is just that good.

I recommend this book primarily for women who enjoy fiction and I would definitely read anything else by Sara J. Henry.




Friday, July 11, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

✭✭✭✭✭

ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Award-winning author Gretchen Rubin is back with a bang, with The Happiness Project. The author of the bestselling 40 Ways to Look at Winston Churchill has produced a work that is “a cross between the Dalai Lama’s The Art of Happiness and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love.” (Sonya Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want) In the vein of Julie and Julia, The Happiness Project describes one person’s year-long attempt to discover what leads to true contentment. Drawing at once on cutting-edge science, classical philosophy, and real-world applicability, Rubin has written an engaging, eminently relatable chronicle of transformation.

MY REVIEW:

A friend recommended this book to me awhile back and I'm glad I finally read it.  I think the idea of a "happiness project" is intriguing.

Rubin conducted her "happiness project" over the course of a year, with one "resolution" per month.  Her plan was to tackle one resolution at a time and build upon those resolutions throughout the year. Some of her resolutions included: boost energy, make time for friends, and pursue a passion.  She went into detail on each one about how she would accomplish those "resolutions" (she cautions the reader not to view them as "goals" which can be accomplished once and then we move on to something else, but rather these are resolutions that she will continue to strive to keep over time).

I connected a lot with Rubin as she discussed her husband and her kids and balancing work/life as a working mother. She is a likable person with a positive energy that she wants to spread to others.  I felt inspired to start my own happiness project and may even use some of her examples (like cleaning out the clutter in my house and getting my birthday calendar organized!).

One of my biggest take-aways from this book was that our general mood affects those around us - in our home, in our work environment, in our social media communities, etc.  Wherever we are on the happiness scale, there is always room to move up higher, and when we choose do that, we can have an impact on everyone around us.  Why not give it a try?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Home by Rachel Smith

✭✭✭✭✭

ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

After twelve years on top of the charts, country music superstar Lily Rae has decided to hang up the microphone and move home. Becoming Lillian Raftzen again is harder than she anticipated and soon, it seems running home is not enough to escape from her manipulative ex-agent, who not only threatens to end her happiness, but her life. When the girl of his dreams walks back into his life twelve years later, Justin DeLuca realizes as much as he loves her, she is no longer the girl he remembers. With everything they must overcome, can the two of them make their dreams come true? Lily's dream to sing and Justin's dream for a family are so very far from the same path. But by veering off course they find a new dream on a new path ending up right where it all began.....home.

MY REVIEW:

Recently I had been hoping to find a book that I "just can't put down."  Despite the fact that I read a lot, I rarely feel that way about the books I read and I wanted to find something that really drew me in.  This book certainly did the trick!  I'm not sure I've ever read a book as fast as I devoured this one.

I occasionally read fiction, but never romantic fiction.  I (reluctantly) may have discovered a new favorite genre.  Home by Rachel Smith is a romance novel, but it also has a rich story line that builds in suspense as the book goes on and keeps you guessing until the very end.

If you're a woman (and/or a fan of romantic fiction), I highly recommend this book with one disclaimer - if this book were a movie, it would be rated R for language and sexual content (4 scenes, I believe).  If these things offend you, this may not be the book for you.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Drinking and Dating: P.S. Social Media Is Ruining Romance by Brandi Glanville


ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

On the heels of her New York Times bestselling book Drinking and Tweeting, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Brandi Glanville takes readers on a wild ride through her dating life in this highly-entertaining relationship book.

Drinking and Dating chronicles Glanville’s misadventures stumbling through today’s dating world. From social media blunders to bedroom escapades, Brandi withholds nothing. Each chapter is inspired by a relationship encounter she has had since her sensational divorce from actor Eddie Cibrian. Hilarious, surprising, vulnerable, and outspoken, Glanville’s unexpected take on dating after heartbreak – and life in general - is as unique as she is. Just like Brandi herself, Drinking and Dating is sexy, funny, and eyebrow-raising.

MY REVIEW:

I don't even want to write this review right now.  What's that saying...If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all? <sigh>  If you know anything about Brandi Glanville, you're probably thinking, "Well, what did you expect!?"  I know, I know.  I just love Brandi.  There's something about a woman with a strong personality and no apology for being who she is.  I love that about her.

I knew very well who Brandi Glanville was from watching Real Housewives, so I'm not sure what I expected from this book.  I have not read her first book yet, but from what I gather, the first book was more about her divorce and this second book is more about her life after the divorce (and her search for love, or an "emergency contact," in this new phase of her life).  I am a big fan of Real Housewives, so it was nice to get to know Brandi a little bit more in her book, but I think we all could have been spared a few of the (very graphic) details. 

I'm no dating expert, but I do watch The Millionaire Matchmaker, and I think Patti Stanger would have a few things to say about Brandi's dating habits!  Perhaps Brandi would have a better chance of finding Mr. Right if she followed a few of Patti's rules, i.e. "a 2 drink maximum" on a date and "no sex before monogamy!"  But I digress...

I would only recommend this book for you if you are a big Real Housewives (and particularly Brandi Glanville) fan, you're currently in the post-divorce dating phase (although, unless you're an ex-model dating NBA players, this book may not help with your self-esteem at this point in your life), you're in your 30s or 40s but are really a 20-year-old at heart and/or you just like pure trash.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The New New Rules: A Funny Look at How Everybody but Me Has Their Head Up Their Ass by Bill Maher


ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

From the New York Times bestselling author and host of HBO’s Real Time, Bill Maher’s latest collection of political riffs and savagely funny suggestions for preserving sanity in an insane world.

New Rule: The next Republican Convention must be held in a giant closet. Every week there’s a new gay Republican outed. I have a feeling that “big tent” they’re always talking about is in their pants. There are so many Republicans in the closet, their symbol shouldn’t be an elephant; it should be a moth.

New Rule: If one of your news organization’s headlines is about who got kicked off Dancing with the Stars last night, you’re no longer a news organization. Sort of like, if you were on Dancing with the Stars last night, you’re no longer a star.

Media, celebrity, Democrats, Republicans, religion, children, marine life, electronics, that couple making out in the next booth—when it comes to lighting up his targets, Bill Maher is an equal-opportunity destroyer. The New New Rules offers Maher’s new and best-loved observations about the world around us, along with some modest tips for its improvement. Because wouldn’t life be a little better if the inside of the office microwave didn’t look like a Jackson Pollock painting, or if fathers stopped signing up their nine-year-olds to win free hunting trips? Scathingly funny and relentlessly unafraid of sensitive topics, Maher’s hilarious brand of realism is more welcome and necessary than ever. So sit back, read on, and enjoy. You may not agree with all his views, but one thing’s for certain: If you’re listening, you’re laughing.
 
MY REVIEW:

In my defense, I did not really know who Bill Maher was before I picked this book.  I mean, I knew of him vaguely - enough to say he was in news/politics, but that was about it.  I picked this book because I have been on a humor audiobook kick for a while now.  I liked the satirical humor of Denis Leary in Why We Suck, and I thought this book might be similar, but it was not.

Although I have been reading humor books lately, I really appreciate books that challenge me in some way.  I have found that humor books often do that by making me laugh one moment and then making me think about something in a new way the next.  The New New Rules by Bill Maher, however, did not make me laugh or challenge me in any way.  It is simply full of (often crude) one-liners. 

If you're already a Bill Maher fan (or if you have a short attention span), you may like this book.  But otherwise, I don't recommend this book for anyone else.

Monday, February 17, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

✭✭✭✭

ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Slaughterhouse-Five, an American classic, is one of the world’s great antiwar books. Centering on the infamous firebombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim’s odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we fear most.

MY REVIEW:

I had never read anything by Kurt Vonnegut before, but recently something I downloaded on Audible brought him to my attention so I thought I would give one of his books a try.  I have to be honest, about 20 pages in, I considered giving up, but then I asked my Facebook friends if anyone had read the book and if it was worth reading.  I only received positive feedback, so I pushed on.  It definitely got easier to read as the story developed.

What originally caught my attention about Vonnegut was that he was an ex-soldier and antiwar activist.  The audio promo I had heard talked about Vonnegut's books being popular among college students and making the readers think about things in a different way. 

Slaughterhouse-Five is fairly short (the copy I had was 200 pages) and is the kind of book you may want to read more than once to fully grasp the messages Vonnegut portrays.  Some of those messages include war, death, time and money/success. It is certainly thought-provoking and I would not hesitate to read another book by Vonnegut.

Favorite Quotes:

All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I've said before, bugs in amber.”

But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human. So she was turned to a pillar of salt. So it goes. People aren't supposed to look back. I'm certainly not going to do it anymore.”