Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Review: Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon

Title: Finding Jake   
Author: Bryan Reardon         
Published: February 2015, William Morrow & Company  
Format: ARC Paperback, 272 pages   
Source: Publisher  

A heart-wrenching yet ultimately uplifting story of psychological suspense in which a parent is forced to confront what he does—and does not—know about his teenage son, in the vein of Reconstructing Amelia, Defending Jacob, and We Need to Talk about Kevin.

While his successful wife goes off to her law office each day, Simon Connolly takes care of their kids, Jake and Laney. Now that they are in high school, the angst-ridden father should feel more relaxed, but he doesn't. He’s seen the statistics, read the headlines. And now, his darkest fear is coming true. There has been a shooting at school.

Simon races to the rendezvous point, where he’s forced to wait. Do they know who did it? How many victims were there? Why did this happen? One by one, parents are led out of the room to reunite with their children. Their numbers dwindle, until Simon is alone.

As his worst nightmare unfolds, and Jake is the only child missing, Simon begins to obsess over the past, searching for answers, for hope, for the memory of the boy he raised, for mistakes he must have made, for the reason everything came to this. Where is Jake? What happened in those final moments? Is it possible he doesn’t really know his son? Or he knows him better than he thought?

Brilliantly paced, Finding Jake explores these questions in a tense and emotionally wrenching narrative. Harrowing and heartbreaking, surprisingly healing and redemptive, Finding Jake is a story of faith and conviction, strength, courage, and love that will leave readers questioning their own lives, and those they think they know.

My thoughts: This is a very emotional, difficult read, but a brilliant one, nevertheless, that takes you on a journey that no one ever wants to go on, especially not a parent of a teenager. I may not have children myself, but I do have many nieces and nephews and can only imagine what it would be like to be in Simon's shoes. 

I've read quite a few books that touch on tragedies involving some type of school violence and find that each one is handled completely differently. Here, we have a school shooting and we find out rather quickly that the one shooter is killed, but is there a second shooter? And is that shooter Jake? 

Told from Simon, Jake's father's, point of view, the story moves back and forth in time from the present day to the past as Simon relives his memories of raising Jake as a stay-at-home dad. Jake is missing and there are many questions that cannot be answered until either he is found or his body is found. Simon looks back at Jake's life and wonders if in fact Jake could have been that second shooter...were there clues that perhaps he should have seen?

The writing in this book is palpable - my heart was racing almost the whole time I was reading this. I was all over the place with my thoughts on what was going to be the outcome. I empathized with the parents and felt outraged against the neighbors and other school parents for assuming the worst once they realized Jake was missing. 

While this is a relatively quick read, it's one that will no doubt stay with you long after you finish that last page. We see the insecurities that parents go through when tragedies strike close to home as well as that eternal love that a parent has for a child. How far will a parent go to protect their child?


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Book Spotlight: One Plus One by Jojo Moyes (plus Giveaway!!!)

Last July, I read One Plus One by Jojo Moyes when it was first released in hard cover, and I really enjoyed it! You can find my thoughts on the book here. On March 31 the book is being released in paperback and to celebrate, I am helping the publishers get the word out. I also have 1 copy of the book to giveaway - be sure to read all the way to the bottom of the post for details!



Title: One Plus One    
Author: Jojo Moyes        
Published: March 2015, Penguin Books  
Format: Paperback, 416 pages  


One single mom. One chaotic family. One quirky stranger. One irresistible love story from the New York Times bestselling author of Me Before You

American audiences have fallen in love with Jojo Moyes. Ever since she debuted Stateside she has captivated readers and reviewers alike, and hit the New York Times bestseller list with the word-of-mouth sensation Me Before You. Now, with One Plus One, she’s written another contemporary opposites-attract love story.

Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied, and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight in shining armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever.

One Plus One is Jojo Moyes at her astounding best. You’ll laugh, you’ll weep, and when you flip the last page, you’ll want to start all over again.

Here are some goodies to whet your appetite further...


Book Club Recipes*
These recipes will be a delightful complement to your discussion, and all perfectly portable if you want to take this club on the road!

HUMMUS TRAY
Ingredients:
One 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about one lemon)
2 tablespoons tahini
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
½ teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons water
Directions:
Combine the above ingredients in a food processor. Blend continuously until smooth.
Serve with your favorite vegetables and pita wedges.

FOCACCIA SANDWICHES
Slice focaccia loaf lengthwise. Top with prosciutto, mozzarella, tomato, and fresh basil.
Lightly spread olive oil over the top half of the bread, sandwich with the bottom half, and
slice into small servings.

PUPPY CHOW
Ingredients:
9 cups Chex cereal (any kind)
½ cup peanut butter
¼ cup butter
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ cups powdered sugar

Directions:
Measure cereal into a large bowl. Set aside. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave chocolate
chips, peanut butter, and butter uncovered for one minute on high. Stir. Cook for 30 more
seconds or until smooth. Stir in vanilla. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until coated.
Pour into 2-gallon resealable plastic bag, and add powdered sugar. Seal bag. Shake until
well coated. Spread on waxed paper to cool.

* From Penguin Online Book Club Kit - for more exclusive material directly from the author herself, be sure to check this out. Click here for more details.

******************************************************************************

Are you an audiobook listener? Here's a clip of the audiobook, performed by Elizabeth Bower, Ben Elliot, Nicola Stanton, and Steven France; produced by Penguin Audio:

https://soundcloud.com/penguin-audio/one-plus-one-by-jojo-moyes

*******************************************************************************


GIVEAWAY DETAILS - (US only)  
Thanks to Annie at Viking/Penguin, one reader can win a copy of  One Plus One by Jojo Moyes. To enter the giveaway, please fill out the form by March 31st.



 

This giveaway is open to US residents only and ends March 31st.

Good Luck!!!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Sunday Post #64 (3.22.15)

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news. A post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. I'm also going to link this up with Sheila's It's Monday post over at Book Journey. 
 
Today, we are hosting our annual St. Patty's Day party. My town, the #1 Irish town in NY, has the 2nd biggest St. Patty's Day parade outside NYC's parade and is always the Sunday after St. Patrick's Day, unless the holiday falls on a Sunday, in which case our parade is on the actual holiday and the city's is the day before. We live just 4 houses off the parade route, so it doesn't matter what the weather is (in today's case, it's rather chilly and there's still some snow on the ground thanks to the snowstorm on Friday!) as people can easily walk back and forth to our house and the parade. We have the event catered - I get bagels and fruit for before the parade and then we have the traditional corned beef and cabbage for after. It's a fun day and one of the few big events we host at my house.  

On the reading front, I don't seem to be getting much reading time in due to work. My schedule is a little crazy at the moment, but I am getting a lot of audio time in - lots of time spent in the car, driving back and forth between locations. This might be the first month where I finish more audio books than print books!

Have a great week everyone!!!
  *****************************************************************************************
Last week on the Blog:                        
 
* Blog Tour & Review: Dog Crazy by Meg Donohue  
* Review: A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London's Flower Sellers by Hazel Gaynor
* Review: Left for Dead by Jane Casey
* Short & Sweet Review: Bare Bones by Kathy Reichs 
* #FitReaders: Weekly Check-in March 20

Books Read:              
* Cold Cold Heart by Tami Hoag (audio review book)      
* A Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison (review audio book)  
 
Currently Reading:            
* Mrs. Grant & Madame Jule by Jennifer Chiaverini (review book)    
 
* Die Again by Tess Gerritsen (audio book)

Books Up Next:                     
 
* Fiercombe Manor by Kate Riordan (review book)
* Never Too Late by Robyn Carr (review e-book)    

Coming Up on the Blog:
* Book Spotlight: One Plus One by Jojo Moyes (plus Giveaway!!!)

* Review: Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon 
* Review: Perfect Fling by Carly Phillips   
* Review: The Burning by Jane Casey  
* Review: The Marriage Game by Alison Weir
 
 
Book Haul:      
For Review:
* The Marriage Season by Linda Lael Miller (Netgalley)

Purchased:
* NYPD Red 3 by James Patterson 
 
* The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (audio book via Audible)
* Crash & Burn by Lisa Gardner (audio book via Audible)
* Die Again by Tess Gerritsen (audio book via Audible) 
 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

#FitReaders: Weekly Check-in March 20


So, last week I was in Washington DC with my mom and we did a ton of walking! Friday was the better day, weather-wise, so that's why you'll see the higher step amounts, but we still did a fair bit of walking even in the rain on Saturday. The rest of the week, work was insane, and I was afraid I was coming down with a cold, so I didn't do any purposeful exercise other than just walking the dogs three or four times a day, depending on the weather. I'm hoping next week, work will calm down and I can get back to my normal exercise regime, including getting back to the gym!
 
Here's how my week went:  

Mar 13:  sight-seeing in DC (23,760 steps)
Mar 14:  sight-seeing in DC (15,095 steps)
Mar 15:  sight-seeing in DC (10,528 steps)
Mar 16:  5,621 steps

Mar 17: 8,900 steps

Mar 18:  7,411 steps

Mar 19:  9,195 steps
Mar 20:  10, 196 steps

 

How did your week go? You can find this week's link-up here.

Short & Sweet Review: Bare Bones by Kathy Reichs (audio)

Title: Bare Bones   
Author: Kathy Reichs    
Series: Temperance Brennan     
Narrator: Barbara Rosenblat   
Published: 2006, Recorded Books   
Length: 9 hours 25 minutes   
Source: Library  
She works with the dead, but she works for the living.

“Down time” is not a phrase in Tempe Brennan’s vocabulary. A string of disturbing cases has put her vacation plans on hold; instead, she heads to the lab to analyze charred remains from a suspicious fire, and a mysterious black residue from a small plane crash. But most troubling of all are the bones. . . . Tempe’s daughter’s new boyfriend invites them to a picnic — a pig pickin’ — in the North Carolina countryside, where a cache of bones turns up. But are they animal or human? X-rays and DNA may link the crimes, but they can’t reveal who is closing in on Tempe and her daughter — and how far they will go to keep her from uncovering the truth.
***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: This is a great series and I am loving that since I got a late start to it, I can read (or in my case, listen to) the books in rapid succession rather than have to wait a year until the next one comes out. This one picks up shortly after the previous one, with Tempe on her way to a vacation with Ryan when a case derails those plans. 

The case was interesting, intersecting with another one, and Tempe's daughter was present in this book - which is not often the case. Interestingly enough, Ryan doesn't really appear too much in this book...though, their relationship does seem to be moving forward to some degree. 

I will say that this definitely wasn't my favorite. I liked it enough to finish it, but more so that I didn't miss out on any character development than anything else. It just seemed to drag a bit, which I haven't felt in the previous books. Oh well, can't love them all!


Audio thoughts: Another installment in this series, another new narrator. Oh how I wish they would pick one narrator and stick with her for the whole series! It's so hard to get used to the new voices when you already have someone else's voice in your head. That being said, this is the first time I've listened to Barbara Rosenblat narrate anything and she did a good job despite me already having heard quite a few other narrates voice this series.



Books in this series: 
  1. Deja Dead                                12.  206 Bones
  2. Death du Jour                       13.  Spider Bones
  3. Deadly Decisions                 14.  Flash & Bones
  4. Fatal Voyage                         15.  Bones are Forever
  5. Grave Secrets                        15.5  Bones in Her Pocket
  6. Bare Bones                              16.  Bones of the Lost
  7. Monday Mourning              16.5  Swamp Bones
  8. Cross Bones                            17.  Bones Never Lie
  9. Break No Bones
  10. Bones to Ashes
  11. Devil Bones

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Review: Left for Dead by Jane Casey

Title: Left for Dead
Author: Jane Casey    
Series: Maeve Kerrigan, #0.5     
Published: March 2014, Minotaur Books   
Format: E-book, 104 pages   
Source: Personal copy  

'Two women died every week in the UK at the hands of a partner or ex-partner. On average, women endured thirty-five incidents of domestic abuse before contacting the police.

And then I showed up the thirty-sixth time and stumbled through my arguments for why the victim should trust us. As if we could save them.

It had been two months, and so far I remembered all of their faces. So far, none of them had turned up on the daily briefing as the borough's latest homicide. '

A violent rapist is attacking women, leaving them for dead on south London streets. Then young police woman Maeve Kerrigan responds to a domestic disturbance and stumbles across the latest victim. But as a new recruit - and a female to boot - she must battle sexism from her colleagues in her bid to be taken seriously enough to even assist on the case...

Jane Casey's bestselling D.C. Kerrigan books have earned her many fans. This exclusive digital short story takes Maeve back to her early days as a rookie police woman.

My thoughts: I only recently heard about Jane Casey's Maeve Kerrigan series and while this short story actually came out much later than the first book, because I am just starting the series, I decided to start with it. I've been on a big mystery/crime kick lately and have also been exploring foreign authors (non-US). 

Not having read any of the books in this series, I found this to be a great introduction to the character of Maeve Kerrigan. I went in with no expectations about who she was or how she would act in any situations. It was nice meeting her with a clean slate and seeing her without any prejudices in my mind. I got to see her in her early days as a rookie as she struggles to make a name for herself in the department.

I think I'm really going to like this series. Maeve seems like a strong female character and she's a bit feisty, too, which I like! There's no romantic involvement here, but I have suspicions that that won't last the whole series - it rarely does. The question is - does she get involved with someone at work, or someone outside work? Either way, I'm excited to start this new-to-me series!


Books in this series:
      0.5  Left for Dead
      1.    The Burning
      2.    The Reckoning
      3.    The Last Girl
      4.    The Stranger You Know
      5.    The Kill

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Review: A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London's Flower Sellers by Hazel Gaynor (audio/print)

Title: A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London's Flower Sellers
Author: Hazel Gaynor    
Narrator: Nicola Barber  
Published: February 2015, Harper Audio / William Morrow Paperbacks
Length: 10 hours 29 minutes /Paperback 400 pages
Source: Personal copy via Audible / Print via publisher 

In 1912, twenty-year-old Tilly Harper leaves the peace and beauty of her native Lake District for London, to become assistant housemother at Mr. Shaw’s Home for Watercress and Flower Girls. For years, the home has cared for London’s flower girls—orphaned and crippled children living on the grimy streets and selling posies of violets and watercress to survive.

Soon after she arrives, Tilly discovers a diary written by an orphan named Florrie—a young Irish flower girl who died of a broken heart after she and her sister, Rosie, were separated. Moved by Florrie’s pain and all she endured in her brief life, Tilly sets out to discover what happened to Rosie. But the search will not be easy. Full of twists and surprises, it leads the caring and determined young woman into unexpected places, including the depths of her own heart.

My thoughts: As soon as I read the description of the this book, I knew I wanted to read it. I knew it was going to be one of those books that would just take my breath away and it absolutely did. I ended up reading and listening to this and I couldn't have been happier with that decision - listening to this story only enhanced my enjoyment of it. 

Told in a dual narrative, this story delves into the history of the flower girls - those girls who were orphaned and crippled, and sold flowers to survive. Unbeknownst to Tilly, when she takes on the job as housemother at one such home for flower girls, her world is about to turn upside down. 

I have really come to enjoy the dual narrative as a plot technique. I loved the back and forth movement in time as we get to know both Flora and Rosie and what happened to them in the past, and Tilly's story in the present and how she came to be the housemother in the present-day story. When the stories collide, as they usually do in some fashion in this types of plot techniques, I actually got chills. This was one of the better ones I had read!

The writing of this book is absolutely beautiful - so descriptive and captivating. It really brings to life what life in London during the late 1800s and early 1900s was like for these girls. And while part of this book is a bit sad, it's also quite heartwarming and will leave you thinking about these characters long after you finish reading that last page. This was the first book I've read by Hazel Gaynor, but it certainly won't be the last!


Audio Thoughts: This is the first time I've listened to Nicola Barber narrate a book and I just loved listening to her voice. She has a great British accent and I thought she did all the characters justice in this book - the young and the old alike! Each and every character got their own unique voice, even the few men that appeared and I never had a problem discerning who was speaking. I really enjoyed listening to her and will definitely be checking out what else she has narrated.


 

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