...never judge a book by its movie

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

eGalley Wednesday - Book Reviews on eGalleys (NEW MEME)

eGalley Wednesday


In this post, I said that I was thinking of putting up some mini-reviews of a few of the eGalleys that I've read. With a big pile of hard copy review books, it's difficult to prioritize reviews at times, but I still feel an obligation to review the eGalleys that publishers have been kind enough to provide to me.

I've decided to take it a step further; instead of just making it a feature, I've decided to make it a meme.  I know that lots of us have regular access to NetGalley and Galley Grab titles, but have a hard time trying to fit in reviews.  So here is a centralized spot for us to place links to our eGalley reviews.  No hard and fast rules, other than that the reviews have to be for eGalleys!  Every Wednesday, come back and link up!   Enter your links like this:  Blog Name (Review Title)

So grab the button below and join in! Link up throughout the week!  And don't forget to visit the other participants!

eGalley Wednesdays

Here are my titles for review this week:  Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum / These Things Hidden by  Heather Gudenkauf / Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell /  So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman



Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina MeldrumTitle:  Amaryllis in Blueberry
Author:  Christina Meldrum
Publisher:  Gallery Books, a division of Simon and Schuster
Released:  February 8, 2011
Paperback, 384 pages / ISBN 10:  1439156891 / ISBN 13:  9781439156896
The Book Depository / Amazon / Goodreads

First sentence:  Dick is dead.

This book opens with Christina Slepy (Seena) on trial in West Africa for the murder of her husband.  The court is a customary court made up of the village elders, a witch doctor and queen among them.

A mother who wanted to be a classics scholar, whose dream was taken when she became pregnant by a man she meets in college ... a daughter who has synesthesia (she tastes and smells feelings and sees their colors) ... other daughters who are, in turn:  overly pious, vain, and rebellious ... all go to live in West Africa in the medical missionary field when a possessive husband finds out that his wife has been unfaithful to him.

Within the confusing confines of Africa, this novel is colored with betrayal, treachery, and mysteries that slowly peel away, page by page, and an ending that will surprise you.

QUOTE:  Dick was a racist, she knew  Not a malicious racist.  A thank-God-I'm-white kind of racist:  there but for the grace of God go I.

Book Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars



These Things Hidden by Heather GudenkaufTitle:  These Things Hidden
Author:  Heather Gudenkauf
Publisher:  Mira Books, a division of Harlequin
Released:  January 28, 2011
Paperback, 352 pages / ISBN 10:    0778328791 / ISBN 13:  9780778328797
The Book Depository / Amazon  / Goodreads

Allison Glenn was sentenced to prison for 10 years for murder when she was 16.  Released at 21, she now has to adjust to a life where people think of her as a monster, her once golden-girl reputation forever tarnished, parents who have basically erased her from their existence, and a new life in a halfway house.

We also meet: her younger sister Brynn, who now lives with her grandmother, who never returned Allison's letters and even now refuses to talk to her - Charm, a young nursing student caring for her terminally-ill stepfather - and Claire, owner of Bookends bookstore, with her son Joshua, adopted after being found at a fire station.

Their stories all connect around the events of the night that put Allison in prison.  With truth and lies co-existing, eventually the truth explodes from the page in an ending that will leave you breathless, and will put Allison's actions in an entirely different light.

I deliberately wrote this review with no spoilers at all, as one of the things that drew my interest when I started reading was wondering exactly what Allison's crime was.  There were also a lot of other questions throughout my reading that kept me wanting to turn pages as I wondered "why" or "what".  Ms. Gudenkauf does a wonderful job in keeping the reader guessing and wanting to know more.

QUOTE:  I never really thought I could keep the reason I was sent to jail a secret, but I would much rather have been known as the girl who stole cars or snorted coke or even been the one to whack her abusive husband than who I really am.

Book Rating:   4 out of 5 stars



Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark DowellTitle:  Ten Miles Past Normal
Author:  Frances O'Roark Dowell
Publisher:  Atheneum Books for Young Readers, a division of Simon and Schuster
Release:  March 22, 2011
Hardcover, 256 pages / ISBN 10:  1416995854 / ISBN 13:  9781416995852
The Book Depository / Amazon / Goodreads

Meet "Farm Girl" - Oh! I mean Janie Gorman, the butt of off-color jokes at her new high school, where many of her middle school friends have been separated from her to different classes and lunch periods, who eats her own lunch in the library and talks to her family's goats in the morning as though they were people.  She now deeply regrets suggesting farm life to her parents after her elementary school field trip to an organic farm.

As we follow her on her high school adventures, through goat poop, her mother's misadventures in crafting and sewing, and her blossoming friendship with Verbena "Angel Hair Tattoo Girl", we laugh and moan and learn to play the bass.  We also learn about Freedom School, where two courageous women taught black people how to read so that they could vote, and where a husband of one of them made yard art out of the cross that was burned on their lawn.

This is a totally fun, authentic YA read with lots of laughter, love, and friendship.  I truly loved it.

QUOTE:  I'm not sure becoming the Jam Band's one girl bass player is going to help me in my quest for title of Most Normal High School Student Ever, but at the very least, it will up my coolness quotient a good 50%.

Book Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars



So Much Pretty by Cara HoffmanTitle:  So Much Pretty
Author:  Cara Hoffman
Publisher:  Simon and Schuster
Release Date:  March 15, 2011
Hardcover, 304 pages / ISBN 10:    1451616759 / ISBN 13:  9781451616750
The Book Depository / Amazon / Goodreads

This novel was inspired by a real case that the author encountered as a police beat reporter.

Told in alternating POV's, we meet Claire Piper, her husband Gene, and their daughter Alice, a happy girl who was a leader in her school and in life.  They live in the small community of Haeden, where the Pipers lead a rather unconventional "back to earth" life, given that they are both Harvard-educated, with medical degrees that they don't put to use.

We also meet Flynn, a reporter from the community's small paper who moved there from Cleveland when she was 24, looking for "the story" that would put gain accolades and reporting fame, in this case the environmental damage caused by the commercial dairy farm of the Haytes' family, also a point of contention for Gene, whose words about it seem to fall on deaf ears.  After all, he and his family are relative newcomers in comparison to the Haytes, whose rich farm is one of the oldest in the county.


When "classic country girl" Wendy White goes missing, and then is found, naked, dead, and having obviously experienced ongoing trauma for quite some time prior to her death, Flynn is determined to find out what really happened to her and who was responsible for her death.

Here is where I pull away from the pack:  "Everyone" seems to like this one - a LOT!  I didn't.  I read it; don't get me wrong, and at the end, I appreciated the underlying story, but getting there was a long, vague, meandering, choppy, and often confusing path.  The varying POV's and switching from first person to third person to second person and back didn't help either.  I didn't like Flynn's promiscuity and unnecessary "tough girl" profanity - it felt fake, like a toughness mask was put on her.  She also looked down on the people around her, which I also didn't like.  I didn't feel a connection with any of the characters until almost the very end, when we find out what Alice is accused of and why she did it, but even then, in truth, I had to go back to re-read a section or more to actually figure out what just happened.  All of the many characters felt like pastel sketches, with no depth, confusing motives, and no heart.  The flow was disconnected, and I often found myself feeling puzzled as players were introduced. 

Again, I am apparently in the minority on this opinion.  Click on the Goodreads link above, and you will find many glowing reviews.

QUOTE:  I watched men who had no business doing anything other than writing traffic tickets, working the crosswalk, or wrangling drunks handle the series of intimate procedures involved in packing and shipping a body that had once belonged to their friend's daughter or their kids' babysitter.

Book Rating:  2 out of 5 stars









 
This book is listed as one of my titles for the 2011 ARC Reading Challenge
Notes and disclosure:  All quotes are from  eGalleys, and may be different in the final copies.  I received complimentary eGalleys of these titles either through Net Galley or through Simon and Schuster's Galley Grab program.  I received no other compensation, and was not required to post a positive review.
Julie
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays - March 29, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along; you don't have to be a blogger! Just do the following:

Grab your current read

Open to a random page

Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!



My teaser this week: 

The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers
Her deceptively innocent look and dirty-girl attitude made a perfect odalisque.  Compared to Merry, I was an Amish schoolmarm crossed with Grandma Zelda.

- page 120, The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers (The Book Depository / Amazon)

A piece from the Goodreads description:

Lulu had been warned to never to let her father in, but when he shows up drunk, he's impossible to ignore. He bullies his way past Lulu, who then listens in horror as her parents struggle. She runs for help, but discovers upon her return that he's murdered her mother, stabbed her five-year-old sister, and tried, unsuccessfully, to kill himself.



So, yeah, I'm one that can't go to sleep without reading first, and it was a mistake to pick this one up last night ... my eyes were crossing from drowsiness and I STILL didn't want to put it down!  So good; I'm thinking it SHOULD be that book that everyone is talking about!


Feel free to leave your teaser or link to it in the comments section; I find that I always end up adding to my to-buy list when I visit!

Julie
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Murder Takes the Cake by Gayle Trent - Release Date Today! BOOK REVIEW

Murder Takes the Cake by Gayle Trent
Title:  Murder Takes the Cake
Author:  Gayle Trent
Publisher:  Gallery Books, a division of Simon and Schuster
Release Date:  March 29, 2011
Paperback, 288 pages
ISBN 10:    1451600011
ISBN 13:  9781451600018
The Book Depository / Amazon


UPDATE:  For today only, from Gayle Trent's website - join Tuesday, March 29: Virtual Book Launch Party on Facebook – If you don’t already, please “like” Gayle’s author page and then stop by on the 29th (starting at about 8 a.m.) to win some terrific prizes (books, gift cards, cookies, tote bags, etc.). If you’ve been to one of Gayle’s virtual launch parties before, you already know how much fun they are. If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?!

Back-of-the-book description:

A routine cake delivery becomes a culinary nightmare when a small-town baker discovers her first client's dead body in this irresistible new mystery series.

It'll take more than a little sugar to convince folks Daphne Martin's freshly baked spice cake was not to blame for the mysterious death of town gossip Yodel Watson.  Getting her new cake decorating business, Daphne's Delectable Cakes, off the ground is hard enough now that Daphne's moved back to her southern Virginia hometown, but orders have been even slower since she found Yodel's body.  She soon realizes, however, that just bout everybody in town had a reason to poison the cantankerous busybody, from the philandering pet show owner, to Yodel's church potluck nemesis, to the Save-A-Buck's cranky produce manager-turned-bagger.  Now, to help prove she's no confectionary killer, Daphne recruits her old flame, Ben Jacobs, editor of the local newspaper, and quickly stirs up a long-hidden family scandal that just might hold the secret ingredient she needs to solve the case.  All she's got to do is roll up her sleeves and get her hands a little dirty before the real culprit decides that taking sweet revenge on Daphne will be icing on the cake.

My Take: 

One of the best cozy mysteries I've ever read, Murder Takes the Cake, like all cozy mysteries, has it's main emphasis on the characters; however, the mysteries here are pretty darn good, too.

We meet Daphne Martin, 40 years old, who has recently moved from Tennessee (where her ex-husband Todd is in prison for 7 years for trying to shoot her), back to the small town in southwestern Virginia where she grew up.  Her new cake decorating business, Daphne's Delectable Cakes, is just getting off the ground when she finds her only customer, Yodel Watson, dead on her living room sofa.

When word gets out that Yodel, the malicious town gossip, died from poisoning, it doesn't seem to matter that she never got to taste the cake that Daphne made.  With the help of one gossip in particular, the wife of a police officer,  Daphne's fledgling business is shot in the foot by the rumor that her cake may have been the cause, and Daphne, with the help of her old beau, Ben Jacobs, who is now the editor of the Brea Ridge Chronicle, sets to work clearing her name.  On the way, she discovers that Yodel kept a journal filled with malicious facts and gossip about the townspeople.  When Daphne reads some of the pages, she discovers an old scandal involving her own family (including her mother, who thinks she should have given Todd another chance), one that may lead to Yodel's actual killer.

This delicious first in a series is filled with fun, mystery, and baking and cake decorating tips like this one:  "Using unwaxed, unflavored dental floss, I cut the dough - floss somehow cuts it more neatly than a knife.".  It is also filled with all sorts of savory and unsavory characters, as well as all of the gossip and intrigue of a small town.

And, of course, the killer isn't who we think it is (but there are so many possibilities).

If you like cozies, you'll love this one.  Even if cozies aren't your preferred genre, you won't go wrong in reading this one; it IS an enjoyable read!

QUOTES

"Hard-nosed.  Is that the word I'm looking for? And she sure ain't two-faced.  She didn't like Yodel when Yodel was living; she ain't gonna pretend to like her now that she's dead."

If you're ever trying to forget your problems, don't watch TV.  The gardening channel did a show on poisonous plants growing in your own backyard.  Many of the women's channels had infidelity-themed movies, and the crime channel did a special on wrongly accused people getting justice after spending years in the penitentiary.
Even the most inane things made me think of either Yodel or Mom or Vern.  Or both.  Take the commercial of the woman serving brownies to a group of friends, for example.  My first thought was, "I wonder which of the men she's seeing behind her husband's back?"  Then, "I wonder if those brownies have been laced with poison?"

All I could do now was play it cool.  Snoopy cool.  Joe Cool.  Stay Alive Until I Can Get Away cool.

Writing:  4 out of 5 stars
Plot:  3.5 out of 5 stars
Characters: 4 out of 5 stars
Reading Immersion:  4 out 5 stars

BOOK RATING:  3.875 out of 5 stars

BLOGGERS:  Have you reviewed this book? If so, please feel free to leave a link to your review in the comments section; I will also add your link to the body of my review.

Author's website

BUY IT:  At Amazon, The Book Depository, through the publisher's website,  and through other on-and-off-line booksellers.

Disclosure:  I  received a  complimentary copy of this title from the publisher to facilitate my review.  No other compensation was received and I was not required to post a positive review.
Julie
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Monday, March 28, 2011

It's Monday! What are YOU Reading? March 28, 2011

What Are You Reading?

"What Are You Reading?" is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.  Click over to see what other readers are into this week and add to your TBR pile!

I finished a lot of books this week, but I don't expect to finish as many next week; classes have started and I have papers to write and studying to do! 

So, on to the reading week:

READ:

READ AND REVIEWED
(click the cover to go to the review):

3.75 of 5 stars

REVIEWED:  (click the cover to go to the review):
3.75 of 5 stars

3.25 of 5 stars

4.125 of 5 stars

3 of 5 stars

 
4.625 out of 5 stars



CURRENTLY READING:
(Click on the cover for the Goodreads page, exc. War & Peace, which goes to Amazon)





DID NOT FINISH:
The Book Depository / Amazon
I just didn't like the writing or the characters in this one


Next to be read on the hard copy review pile 
(clicking the pics will take you to the Goodreads page):

FAVE OF THE WEEK:

Amazon

Julie
How was YOUR reading week?  Please leave a link to YOUR What Are You Reading post in the comments (I'd love to come visit) or simply comment with what your reading week was like!
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When the Thrill is Gone by Walter Mosley - BOOK REVIEW

When the Thrill is Gone by Walter Mosley
Title:  When the Thrill is Gone
Author:  Walter Mosley
Publisher:  Riverhead Books, a division of the Penguin Group
Publish Date:  March 8, 2011
Hardcover, 359 pages
ISBN 10:    1594487812
ISBN 13:  9781594487811
The Book Depository / Amazon

Goodreads description:

Leonid McGill is back, in the third-and most enthralling and ambitious-installment in Walter Mosley's latest New York Times- bestselling series.

The economy has hit the private-investigator business hard, even for the detective designated as "a more than worthy successor to Philip Marlowe" (The Boston Globe) and "the perfect heir to Easy Rawlins" (Toronto Globe and Mail). Lately, Leonid McGill is getting job offers only from the criminals he's worked so hard to leave behind. Meanwhile, his life grows ever more complicated: his favorite stepson, Twill, drops out of school for mysteriously lucrative pursuits; his best friend, Gordo, is diagnosed with cancer and is living on Leonid's couch; his wife takes a new lover, infuriating the old one and endangering the McGill family; and Leonid's girlfriend, Aura, is back but intent on some serious conversations...

So how can he say no to the beautiful young woman who walks into his office with a stack of cash? She's an artist, she tells him, who's escaped from poverty via marriage to a rich collector who keeps her on a stipend. But she says she fears for her life, and needs Leonid's help. Though Leonid knows better than to believe every word, this isn't a job he can afford to turn away, even as he senses that-if his family's misadventures don't kill him first-sorting out the woman's crooked tale will bring him straight to death's door.


My Take: 

The third in a series - now I have the previous two on my wishlist.

I like well-written thrillers.   Ones where the protagonist isn't the stereotypical "tough guy with an attitude".  Leonid McGill IS a tough guy, one with a revolutionary father who quoted communist manifestos at him while he was growing up, with a wife who takes lovers, and children that aren't his 'blood children' (resulting from his wife's affairs), but that he loves anyway.  He's also a champion of the underdog.  His secretary Mardi murdered her incestuous father to save her sister from him, and he helped Iran Shelfly, a 32-year-old ex-con that he set up in his prior life, gain the management of his friend Gordo's boxing gym.  He's a philosopher and a thinker, with a dark background that he's striving to stay away from in his private investigation business.

But when a woman walks into his office claiming that her wealthy husband is a serial killer, having murdered two previous wives, and that he is now out to kill her, Leonid takes on a case where things and people aren't always what they seem to be.  On top of that, he has to deal with his son Twill and his budding criminal enterprise, and 73-year-old Harris Vartan, an organized crime boss and a former close aid to his union-organizing father, shows up asking him to track down a mysterious William Williams.

Usually in a thriller, you don't get a lot of character development, as all of the emphasis is on the action and the suspense.  This novel is a great blend of action, mystery, suspense, AND character development, which makes it perfect even for readers whose first genre isn't thrillers.  AND ... even though it's the third in a series, it's a great stand-alone book; I didn't feel as though I was missing out on whatever happened in the previous two books - it just made me want to get the others even more).

Highly recommended; I loved it and couldn't put it down.

QUOTES

A good friend was dying in my eleventh-floor apartment, and my wife was having an affair with a man half her age.  And those were just the devils I knew.

Tyler was the classic milksop who happens to be a billionaire but reads adventure stories so that he can imagine himself a hero in a world where deeds and not money mattered.
I liked him.

There is no forgiveness for us.  For people like you and me, guilt is an indulgence.  


Writing:  4.5 out of 5 stars
Plot:   5 out of 5 stars
Characters:  4.5 out of 5 stars
Reading Immersion:  4.5 out 5 stars

BOOK RATING:  4.625 out of 5 stars

Read an excerpt

BLOGGERS:  Have you reviewed this book? If so, please feel free to leave a link to your review in the comments section; I will also add your link to the body of my review.

BUY IT:  At Amazon, The Book Depository, through the publisher's website,  and through other on-and-off-line booksellers.

 
This book is included in my list for the 2011 ARC Reading Challenge

Disclosure:  I  received a  complimentary copy of this title from the publisher through Shelf Awareness to facilitate my review.  No other compensation was received and I was not required to post a positive review.
Julie
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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday Share! Time to link up YOUR blog giveaways! March 27, 2011

It's SUNDAY!  Time for the Sunday Share Giveaway Linky!

If you are a blog owner hosting your own giveaway(s), please feel free to share your link.  Enter your blog name, a brief description of the prize, ending date and eligibility (US, Can, International, etc.)  Please put the ending date, too, so that I can clear it out when it's over. EXAMPLE:  Best Blog on the Block - $50 Gift certificate - 6/30 - US/Can

NO SPAM - you'll be banned - I'm not kidding!

My current giveaways:
Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution by Michelle Moran
ARC giveaway -US/CAN through 3/31/2011

Childrens Book Event
2 winners with choice of books
Follower/subscriber giveaway - International through 4/3/2011

GO HERE to enter your own giveaway links! 
Julie
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Mailbox Monday and In My Mailbox - March 28, 2011

Mailbox Monday
"Mailbox Monday" is the brainchild of Marcia at The Printed Page (A Girl and Her Books).  Mailbox Monday is on it's own blog here:  http://mailboxmonday.wordpress.com/

March's host is Laura at I'm Booking It, so head on over to her page to join this fabulous meme!  April's host will be Amy at Passages to the Past, so keep that in mind when joining in next week!

In My Mailbox
"In My Mailbox" is hosted by The Story Siren

Every week we'll post about what books we have that week (via your mailbox/library/store bought)! Everyone that agrees to participate will try to visit each other's list and leave comments!  Everyone is welcome to join! You can join at anytime and you DO NOT have to participate every week. 

MONDAY:

I had traffic court in the morning (for a ten-year-old offense that I hadn't realized was never cleared up) ... two and a half hours after I entered the courtroom, I celebrated not having to pay a fine by deciding to treat myself to "just one" book at our downtown Borders.   Here's what I came out with:


Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford - Amazon / The Book Depository

Thank goodness for book bloggers!  Without them and their wonderful reviews, this title may never have made it into my TBR pile!!

In 1986, Henry Lee joins a crowd outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle's Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has discovered the belongings of Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during World War II. As the owner displays and unfurls a Japanese parasol, Henry, a Chinese American, remembers a young Japanese girl from his childhood in the 1940s -- Keiko Okabe, with whom he forged a bond of friendship and innocent love that transcended the prejudices of their Old World ancestors. After Keiko and her family were evacuated to the internment camps, she and Henry could only hope that their promise to each other would be kept. Now, forty years later, Henry explores the hotel's basement for the Okabe family's belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot even begin to measure. His search will take him on a journey to revisit the sacrifices he has made for family, for love, for country.


A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness - Amazon / The Book Depository

A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.

Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.



Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah - Amazon / The Book Depository
  
With Ms. Hannah's Night Road in my review pile, and already knowing that I will love it based on reviews by book bloggers with my same reading taste, I decided to pick this one up as well. 

From the author of the smash-hit bestseller Firefly Lane and True Colors comes a powerful, heartbreaking novel that illuminates the intricate mother-daughter bond and explores the enduring links between the present and the past.

Meredith and Nina Whitson are as different as sisters can be. One stayed at home to raise her children and manage the family apple orchard: the other followed a dream and traveled the world to become a famous photojournalist. But when their beloved father falls ill, Meredith and Nina find themselves together again, standing alongside their cold, disapproving mother, Anya, who even now, offers no comfort to her daughters. As children, the only connection between them was the Russian fairy tale Anya sometimes told the girls at night. On his deathbed, their father extracts a promise from the women in his life: the fairy tale will be told one last time - and all the way to the end. Thus begins an unexpected journey into the truth of Anya's life in war-torn Leningrad, more than five decades ago. Alternating between the past and present, Meredith and Nina will finally hear the singular, harrowing story of their mother's life, and what they learn is a secret so terrible and terrifying that it will shake the very foundation of their family and change who they believe they are.


Drood by Dan Simmons
Drood by Dan Simmons - Amazon / The Book Depository

A friend of mine (who was himself reading a borrowed copy), recommended this one to me some time ago.  It's definitely one for my Chunkster Challenge list - weighing in at over 900 pages - and will allow me to satisfy my taste for King-esque stories while mixing it up with some gothic elements.

On June 9, 1865, while traveling by train to London with his secret mistress, 53-year-old Charles Dickens, at the height of his powers and popularity, the most famous and successful novelist in the world and perhaps in the history of the world, hurtled into a disaster that changed his life forever. Did Dickens begin living a dark double life after the accident? Were his nightly forays into the worst slums of London and his deepening obsession with corpses, crypts, murder, opium dens, the use of lime pits to dissolve bodies, and a hidden subterranean London mere research . . . or something more terrifying?  Just as he did in The Terror, Dan Simmons draws impeccably from history to create a gloriously engaging and terrifying narrative. Based on the historical details of Charles Dickens's life and narrated by Wilkie Collins (Dickens's friend, frequent collaborator, and Salieri-style secret rival), DROOD explores the still-unsolved mysteries of the famous author's last years and may provide the key to Dickens's final,unfinished work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.  Chilling, haunting,and utterly original, DROOD is Dan Simmons at his powerful best.


The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell - Amazon / The Book Depository

I don't think I have to explain why I bought THIS one :)

The year is 1799, the place Dejima in Nagasaki Harbor, the "high-walled, fan-shaped artificial island" that is the Japanese Empire's single port and sole window onto the world, designed to keep the West at bay; the farthest outpost of the war-ravaged Dutch East Indies Company; and a de facto prison for the dozen foreigners permitted to live and work there. To this place of devious merchants, deceitful interpreters, costly courtesans, earthquakes, and typhoons comes Jacob de Zoet, a devout and resourceful young clerk who has five years in the East to earn a fortune of sufficient size to win the hand of his wealthy fiancée back in Holland.

But Jacob's original intentions are eclipsed after a chance encounter with Orito Aibagawa, the disfigured daughter of a samurai doctor and midwife to the city's powerful magistrate. The borders between propriety, profit, and pleasure blur until Jacob finds his vision clouded, one rash promise made and then fatefully broken. The consequences will extend beyond Jacob's worst imaginings.  As one cynical colleague asks, "Who ain't a gambler in the glorious Orient, with his very life?"

A magnificent mix of luminous writing, prodigious research, and heedless imagination, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is the most impressive achievement of its eminent author.


So I've now come to the (admittedly belated) realization that I have absolutely no book-buying willpower once I'm actually surrounded by books to be bought.  Which may mean that my best career path would be as a bookstore employee (it would be an ideal situation for the owners; they get an awesome employee and half of her paycheck goes back to them when she buys books), or a librarian (nothing like being able to get my hands on some great reads as soon as they come out for free - but I'd still have to buy some for my shelves at home) .. sigh ..

TUESDAY:


Dominance by Will Lavender
Dominance by Will Lavender - ARC for review from publisher - Releases July 5, 2011 - Amazon / The Book Depository

From the back of the book:

1994: Jasper College is buzzing with the news that famed literature professor Richard Aldiss will be teaching a special night class called Unraveling a Literary Mystery - from his prison cell.  Twelve years ago, Aldiss was convicted of the murders of two female grad student; they were killed with axe blows and their bodies decorated with the novels of notoriously reclusive author Paul Fallows. Even the most elite, obsessive Fallows scholars have never seen him.  He is like a ghost. 

Now, Aldiss entreats the students of his night class to solve the Fallows riddle once and for all.  he introduces them to the Procedure, a game that supposedly lets one get inside the novels themselves, books which scholars believe are maps to the authors true identity.  Soon members of the night class will be invited to play along . . .

Present Day:  Alex Shipley, now a professor at Harvard, made her name as a member of Aldiss's night class.  She not only exposed the truth of Paul Fallow's identity, but in the process uncovered information that acquitted Aldiss of the heinous 982 crimes.  But when a fellow night class alum is murdered - the body chopped up with an axe and surrounded by Fallows novels - can she use what she knows of Fallows and the Procedure to stop a killer before each of her former classmates is picked off, one by one?



THURSDAY:

Chime by Franny Billingsley
Chime by Franny Billingsley - ARC for Review from publisher - Released March 17, 2011 - The Book Depository / Amazon

Before Briony's stepmother died, she made sure Briony blamed herself for all the family's hardships. Now Briony has worn her guilt for so long it's become a second skin. She often escapes to the swamp, where she tells stories to the Old Ones, the spirits who haunt the marshes. But only witches can see the Old Ones, and in her village, witches are sentenced to death. Briony lives in fear her secret will be found out, even as she believes she deserves the worst kind of punishment.

Then Eldric comes along with his golden lion eyes and mane of tawny hair. He's as natural as the sun, and treats her as if she's extraordinary. And everything starts to change. As many secrets as Briony has been holding, there are secrets even she doesn't know.


FRIDAY:


Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda - Finished copy for Review from publisher - Releases April 5, 2011 - The Book Depository / Amazon

Secret Daughter, a first novel by Shilpi Somaya Gowda, explores powerfully and poignantly the emotional terrain of motherhood, loss, identity, and love through the experiences of two families—one Indian, one American—and the child that binds them together. A masterful work set partially in the Mumbai slums so vividly portrayed in the hit film Slumdog Millionaire, Secret Daughter recalls the acclaimed novels of Kim Edwards and Thrity Umrigar, yet sparkles with the freshness of a truly exciting new literary voice.


Honestly, I could pick up ANY of the books I received this week and be in book-reading heaven!

How about YOU?  What was in YOUR mailbox?  If you have a Mailbox Monday/In My Mailbox post, please leave your link; I love visiting! 
Julie









 
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