Always With a Book

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Review: Not Our Kind by Kitty Zeldis

Title: Not Our Kind
Author: Kitty Zeldis
Published: September 2018, Harper
Format: ARC Paperback, 352 pages
Source: Author via Publisher

With echoes of The Rules of Civility and The Boston Girl, a compelling and thought-provoking novel set in postwar New York City, about two women—one Jewish, one a WASP—and the wholly unexpected consequences of their meeting

One rainy morning in June, two years after the end of World War II, a minor traffic accident brings together Eleanor Moskowitz and Patricia Bellamy. Their encounter seems fated: Eleanor, a teacher and recent Vassar graduate, needs a job. Patricia’s difficult thirteen-year-old daughter Margaux, recovering from polio, needs a private tutor.

Though she feels out of place in the Bellamys’ rarefied and elegant Park Avenue milieu, Eleanor forms an instant bond with Margaux. Soon the idealistic young woman is filling the bright young girl’s mind with Shakespeare and Latin. Though her mother, a hat maker with a little shop on Second Avenue, disapproves, Eleanor takes pride in her work, even if she must use the name “Moss” to enter the Bellamys’ restricted doorman building each morning, and feels that Patricia’s husband, Wynn, may have a problem with her being Jewish.

Invited to keep Margaux company at the Bellamys’ country home in a small town in Connecticut, Eleanor meets Patricia’s unreliable, bohemian brother, Tom, recently returned from Europe. The spark between Eleanor and Tom is instant and intense. Flushed with new romance and increasingly attached to her young pupil, Eleanor begins to feel more comfortable with Patricia and much of the world she inhabits. As the summer wears on, the two women’s friendship grows—until one hot summer evening, a line is crossed, and both Eleanor and Patricia will have to make important decisions—choices that will reverberate through their lives.

Gripping and vividly told, Not Our Kind illuminates the lives of two women on the cusp of change—and asks how much our pasts can and should define our futures.

My thoughts:  I had the delightful honor of meeting Kitty Zeldis last spring before her book was published at an informal happy hour in NYC with a few book bloggers and authors when I was there during Book Expo and I so enjoyed briefly chatting with her. She offered to have her book sent to me and I was sounded so good - and it was!

Right away, I felt pulled into the story that Kitty tells about these two women living in NYC right after the war. I think that is what is most unique about this book - it's not a story told during the war, but right after and you feel the effects of that, of how the world is still coming to terms with that and recovering from it. These two women, Eleanor Moskowitz and Patricia Bellamy, couldn't be more different from each other, yet they have so much to learn from each other. 

The characters are so complex and vivid, and you are immediately drawn to them. The issues that are brought up make you think while you watch these women navigate the challenges that life presents them. Life certainly wasn't easy back then for a single woman, let alone a married one.

This was such an engaging, thought-provoking story and one that I did not want to end. I fell in love with these characters and as much as I wanted to see where they were going to end up, I also wanted to savor my time with them - I wanted to keep reading, but at the same time, I only wanted to read a chapter at a time - such a dilemma to have!


Monday, November 12, 2018

Review: The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain (audio)

Title: The Dream Daughter
Author: Diane Chamberlain
Narrator: Susan Bennett
Published: October 2018, Macmillan Audio / St. Martin's Press
Length: 13 hours 32 minutes / 384 pages
Source: Audio - Digital audio via Macmillan Audio / Print - ARC Paperback via St. Martin's Press

When Caroline Sears receives the news that her unborn baby girl has a heart defect, she is devastated. It is 1970 and there seems to be little that can be done. But her brother-in-law, a physicist, tells her that perhaps there is. Hunter appeared in their lives just a few years before—and his appearance was as mysterious as his past. With no family, no friends, and a background shrouded in secrets, Hunter embraced the Sears family and never looked back.

Now, Hunter is telling her that something can be done about her baby's heart. Something that will shatter every preconceived notion that Caroline has. Something that will require a kind of strength and courage that Caroline never knew existed. Something that will mean a mind-bending leap of faith on Caroline's part.

And all for the love of her unborn child.

A rich, genre-spanning, breathtaking novel about one mother's quest to save her child, unite her family, and believe in the unbelievable. Diane Chamberlain pushes the boundaries of faith and science to deliver a novel that you will never forget.

My thoughts:  Diane Chamberlain has just recently become an author who has made it to my must-read list. I have read her last few books and have absolutely loved them and while I am not a fan of time travel, I decided to still give this one a chance because it is Diane Chamberlain and I am so glad I did...this is one book you don't want to miss!

I think what most comes to mind when thinking about this book is just how complicated the plot structure really is. It's one of those books that is probably best that you go into it as blind as possible for you to get the most enjoyment out of it, so I will not be going into too many specifics here, but I will say this - this book is about choices, it's about how far a mother is willing to go for the love of a child. It will take you on a wild ride of emotions and whether you believe in the science that is explored in this book, the fundamental question is still there - as a parent, you will still do what you believe is best for your child and that is the story that Diane Chamberlain has given us.

Along the way, we meet some amazing characters that I will not be forgetting anytime soon. I think that is one of Diane Chamberlain's strongest suits - she creates such strong, capable characters that you just cannot help but fall in love with. Carly is one such character. Oh, the strength this woman had! I sure wouldn't want to be in her shoes, though...she had some tough decisions to make and I sure didn't envy her at any point. 

This book wrecked such a good way. Even if time travel is not your thing, like it's not mine, I strongly recommend you giving this book a try. The way it's used in this book is in a good helps with the story and moves it in such a way as to not feel so science fiction-like. Yes, this book is emotional, but it is a journey that is also filled with laughter and hope. Give this one a chance - you won't be sorry!

Audio thoughts: Even though I had a copy of the print book, I was excited to have won a copy of the audio book, so I decided to listen to this story - and what an amazing experience it was! Susan Bennett did a phenomenal job narrating this book...her pacing and intonations were spot on. I was completely captivated by this book and the narration really helped with that...I loved this audio book!!! 


Sunday, November 11, 2018

Short & Sweet Review: Unlucky 13 by James Patterson, Maxine Paetro

Title: Unlucky 13
Author: James Patterson, Maxine Paetro
Series: Women's Murder Club, #13
Published: May 2014, Little, Brown & Company
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Source: Personal copy

When two dead bodies are found inside a wrecked car on the Golden Gate Bridge, Detective Lindsay Boxer doubts that it will be anything as simple as a traffic accident.

The scene is more gruesome than anything she has seen before. It definitely wasn’t the crash that killed these people.

While Lindsay starts to piece this case together, she gets a call she wasn’t expecting. Sightings of her ex-colleague-turned-ruthless-killer Mackie Morales have been reported.

Wanted for three murders, Mackie has been in hiding since she escaped from custody. But now she’s ready to return to San Francisco and pay a visit to some old friends.

***Short & Sweet Reviews are short, quick reviews. These will mainly be used for series books where I have already done full reviews on some of the earlier books or for books that I feel will suffice with a quick review. These will not be used for review requests or blog tours.

My thoughts: While I have enjoyed all the books so far in this series, I have to say this one might be my favorite one yet! It was filled with so many gripping and tension-filled moments that had my heart pounding for my favorite ladies.

This book picks up pretty much right after the previous book left off. And the action is non-stop. There is quite a bit going on, but not so much that you are spinning your head trying to keep up. There are two main cases - a bomber targeting a fast-food chain and the ship hijacking - as well as the crazy, vengeful nut job from the past who has her eyes set on taking Lindsay down. 

Of course, what was most frustrating is that as the story moves along, it would switch back and forth just as things got good...we would just be getting somewhere, just be finding out something...and BAM!...a new chapter, and therefore a different story line, especially towards the end! That's the only complaint I have about this book. It just made me read faster because I desperately wanted to get back to the other part to figure things out!

This was a really good installment in this series and I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next!

Books in this series:

1.   1st to Die                                    13.   Unlucky 13
     2.   2nd Chance                               14.   14th Deadly Sin
     3.   3rd Degree                                15.    15th Affair
     4.   4th of July                                 15.5   The Trial
     5.   The 5th Horseman                   16.    16th Seduction
     6.   The 6th Target                          16.5   The Medical Examiner
     7.   7th Heaven                                 17.    The 17th Suspect   
     8.   The 8th Confession                  18.   The 18th Abduction - due out April 2019
     9.   The 9th Judgment
    10.  10th Anniversary
    11.   11th Hour
    12.   12th of Never    


Friday, November 09, 2018

Review: Absolute Proof by Peter James (audio)

Title: Absolute Proof
Author: Peter James
Narrator: Hugh Bonneville
Published: October 2018, Audible Studios
Length: 16 hours 31 minutes
Source: Audible Studios via Publicist

Investigative reporter Ross Hunter nearly didn't answer the phone call that would change his life - and possibly the world - for ever.

"I'd just like to assure you I'm not a nutcase, Mr Hunter. My name is Dr Harry F. Cook. I know this is going to sound strange, but I've recently been given absolute proof of God's existence - and I've been advised there is a writer, a respected journalist called Ross Hunter, who could help me to get taken seriously."

What would it take to prove the existence of God? And what would be the consequences?

The false faith of a billionaire evangelist, the life's work of a famous atheist, and the credibility of each of the world's major religions are all under threat. If Ross Hunter can survive long enough to present the evidence...

My thoughts: When I was first approached about this book, I had to really think about it. It isn't really my cuppa tea, but I was curious...and since it was an audio book, and Hugh Bonneville was narrating it, I decided to give it a go...and I'm so glad I did.

Peter James is still a relatively new author to me - I have only read one of his Roy Grace books, Dead If You Don't, which is the latest one in the series. And while I do plan on going back and reading the whole series, I haven't had time yet, so when I was approached about this book, it just made sense to see what it was all about. What immediately struck me is that it made me think of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code - a book I haven't read in years, and now kind of want to pick up again.

I think what pulled me in to this book and kept me going is that not only is Ross Hunter contacted by someone having absolute proof about the existence of God, but he himself battles his skepticism on this topic throughout. It's not a straight yes there is a God and here is the proof type of book. It is filled with both extreme religious and atheist groups who want to get this absolute proof that Ross is trying to find, and then there's the scientific and genetic information and research component that makes up the other spectrum. It really is quite compelling and keeps you engaged and wondering where it is all headed.

On top of that, there's the personal story of Ross and his relationship with his wife, Imogen, and his dalliance with Sally. This was just as intriguing as the other story line and kept me just as engaged. Ross wasn't the brightest bulb in the box when it came to making decisions - he kept using the excuse that his wife cheated on him when he was away reporting in Afghanistan as an excuse years later...clearly he has trust issues. But did that justify his actions with Sally? Not that I'm excusing Imogen, but still. 

I really ended up enjoying this book overall and think it might be a book I would reread, or in my case, listen to again. It is complex, thrilling, suspenseful and definitely thought-provoking.

Audio thoughts: I have to say one of the things that drew me to this book was the fact that Hugh Bonneville was narrating it! I absolutely loved him in Downton Abbey and was excited to see how it would be to listen to him narrate a book - and I loved it. Listening to him tell this story, a book that is quite long, was so fun. He did such a great job with the voices and his pacing and intonation were spot on! 


Thursday, November 08, 2018

Review: The Nightmare by Lars Kepler

Title: The Nightmare
Author: Lars Kepler
Series: Joona Linna, #2
Published: September 2018, Vintage Crime/Black Lizzard
Format: Paperback, 549 pages
Source: Personal Copy

The second book in the #1 internationally bestselling Joona Linna series, The Nightmare finds Joona teaming up with a national security agent to find the link between two mysterious, seemingly unrelated deaths.

One summer night, police discover the lifeless body of a young woman on an abandoned yacht. She appears to have drowned, but it's clear she was never in the water. The next day, a man is found hanging in his completely empty apartment. It seems like a suicide, but the circumstances are suspicious.

Detective Joona Linna is called in to investigate, and, with the help of a young Swedish Security Police detective named Saga Bauer, he soon discovers a surprising connection between the two deaths. With more lives at stake, Joona and Saga must fight to stop a killer who always seems to be one step ahead. Ultimately the case will lead them into the shadowy world of international arms trafficking, where they are forced to confront a ruthless psychopath.

My thoughts: I am so glad to have found this series...while it is dark and disturbing, I absolutely love it!!! And yes, I did start with book 4, The Sandman, but I have loved going back to the beginning and seeing how the characters develop over time. 

I liked that this book is creepy and dark and utterly thrilling. The characters are all complicated and the story lines keep you hooked from start to finish. While it does delve into a bit of politics, I never felt it got too heavy-handed. It's actually quite a thrilling ride and the twists and turns keep it very interesting. I also loved how the use of the phrase,  "What a nightmare!" was used repeatedly during the investigation. This was definitely the theme of the book.

I feel that in this second book in the Joona Linna series, we have much more character development of Detective Joona Linna than we did in book 1. His migraine issue is explored a bit more deeply and I have to say I have so much more respect for him - I, too, suffer from these and happen to take the same medication as he does - I swear by that stuff! It does make you a bit drowsy, which is why I take it at night...but it works! But I get why he refuses to take the medication when he's working a case. We also see that his relationship with Disa is quite strained. I wonder if this is going to be one of those relationships that is an on-again/off-again one where she is always there, but they aren't always on the best of terms. And of course, we cannot forget Joona's quirk of needing to always "be right!" I think this might be my favorite characteristic of his. And apparently everyone knows it about him.

This book has the introduction of Security Police detective Saga Bauer and I have been waiting for that...knowing that she was a central figure in book 4.  It seems that she and Joona Linna work well together, as they have a similar intuition.  A lot is made of her elf-like appearance and stunning beauty. She is often not respected by her male colleagues and has to fight to be heard - she is a feisty one for sure and I am looking forward to watching her character develop throughout the series.

Because I got to see the writing duo that is Lars Kepler when they were on tour for The Sandman, I know that they act out many of the scenes that they write to make sure that they get them just right. And as I was reading this book, I kept wondering just how many of them they had to do that for...for instance, did they have to do that when Joona used Frippe to show how the young woman was most likely murdered on the yacht?  These are the questions I asked as I read each scene...I could actually see the writing duo acting out each complicated scene and it made me enjoy the writing that much more, knowing that they took the time to get it just right!

While I will say this book was a bit slow to start, it did eventually pick up speed and I had a hard time putting it down. I loved all the character development we got and am anxious to get my hands on the next book as we are left with a rather interesting thread about Joona Linna that I can't wait to find out more about...

Books in this series:  
  1. The Hypnotist
  2. The Nightmare
  3. The Fire Witness - out in US (re-release) - Nov 27, 2018
  4. The Sandman
  5. Stalker - out in US Feb 5, 2019

Short & Sweet Review: The Games: A Private Novel by James Patterson & Mark Sullivan

Title: The Games: A Private Novel
Author: James Patterson & Mark Sullivan
Series: Private, #11
Published: June 2016, Little, Brown & Company
Format: Hardcover, 366 pages
Source: Personal copy

Two years ago Jack Morgan – the head of the renowned worldwide investigation firm Private – was in charge of security for the World Cup in Brazil. During the championship final, the action nearly spilled from the field into the stands. Fortunately, Jack and his team averted disaster on football's biggest stage.

Now he has returned to Rio to secure the Olympics. But before the torch is lit, the threats come fast and furious as Jack discovers that someone is trying to sabotage the games. A lethal plan put in motion during the World Cup is set to decimate Rio, and turn the Olympics from a worldwide celebration into a horrifying spectacle.

***Short & Sweet Reviews are short, quick reviews. These will mainly be used for series books where I have already done full reviews on some of the earlier books or for books that I feel will suffice with a quick review. These will not be used for review requests or blog tours.

My thoughts: I am loving the adventure of getting caught up with this series. Each book takes you to a different a different country, where you get the opportunity to explore a different culture and see a different country, as the Private Office rushes to solve whatever case they are called to help out on. 

In this instance, we are immersed into the Brazilian culture as they gear up to get ready for the Olympic Games. As Jack and his team arrive to help make sure Rio is secured for the games, things start to go wrong in spectacular fashion and this is where the book takes off.

Once again, as in the previous book, there are only two cases for the team to handle, so it was easy to keep things straight and there was plenty of development for both the story lines as well as the characters. And I loved that we not only get the good guys point of view, but also the bad guy...we get into the head of the angry virologist and that is quite chilling at times. 

This book is the typical Patterson non-stop action, and the short chapters and unexpected twists and turns. It kept my interest throughout and I loved that we saw quite a few familiar Private faces here, even if they weren't physically present.

Books in this series:
*This list contains both the Private home office books and the Private other offices books combined. Some lists keep these as separate. And some books have 2 different names, depending on where you buy them.

     1.  Private
     2.  Private #1 Suspect
     3.  Private Games
     4.  Private London
     5.  Private Berlin
     6.  Private L.A.
     7.  Private Oz / Private Down Under 
     8.  Private India: City on Fire
     9.  Private Vegas
     10.  Private Paris
     11.  Private Rio / The Games
     12.  Private Sydney / The Missing
     12.5  Bookshots - Private Royals
     13.  Private Delhi / Count to Ten
     13.5  Bookshots - Private: Gold 

     14.  Private Princess


Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Review: Inhuman Resources by Pierre Lemaitre

Title: Inhuman Resources
Author: Pierre Lemaitre
Published: November 2018, MacLehose Press

Format: ARC Paperback, 384 pages
Source: Publisher

Alain Delambre is a fifty-seven-year-old former HR executive, drained by four years of hopeless unemployment. The only job offers he gets are for low-level, demoralizing positions. He has reached rock bottom and can see no way out.

So when a major company finally invites him in for an interview, Alain is ready to do anything--borrow money, shame his wife and his daughters, and even participate in the ultimate recruitment test: a role-playing game that involves taking hostages.

Alain vows to commit body and soul in this struggle to regain his dignity. But if he had realized that the odds were stacked against him from the beginning, he never would have tried to land the position. Now, his fury is limitless. And what began as a role-playing game could quickly become a bloodbath.

My thoughts: This is the third book I've read by Pierre Lemaitre and I am such a fan of his work, despite the fact that his books are so dark and disturbing. I am continually blown away by the quality of his writing.

This book is a bit different from the other two I've read, yet it is still twisted and dark. It's a bit more cynical that the other two, though still just as compelling, in my opinion. It delves into the psyche of a man completely desperate to get back into the workforce and the extreme measures he takes to get a job. I have to say, I really felt his desperation as Alain goes to great lengths to secure this job, and while I might not have agreed with all his decisions, I could understand why he felt he had to do what he did. Lemaitre does such a great job making you feel this desperation, his hopelessness at his situation - you get that Alain realizes he has nothing to lose at this point and if he doesn't do everything he is doing, he isn't going to have anything. You might be in shock with what Alain ends up doing, but at some level, you get it.

This book is full of surprises. You may think you have it figured out, you may think you know where it is going to end up, but it doesn't end up going there. It is cleverly plotted, filled with great twists and turns and the suspense and tension build at just the right pace. 

It is broken up into three parts, the before, during and after. The before is when we have Alain setting everything up - this part is narrated by Alain. The during is when the tension starts ratcheting up - this part is narrated by another person. The after is when the action really amps up - this part is back to being narrated by Alain. 

I really enjoyed this crazy as it seems. As soon as I started it, I found myself totally consumed by it, wondering just where it was headed. This is crime fiction with a twist and I can't recommend it enough!!!

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