Category Archives: Book Review

Keep Your Friends Close by Paula Daly

Keep Your Friends Close by Paula Daly, Book Journey

Natty and Sean have a typical marriage.  Their two daughters are now teenagers, and both parents are busy working at the hotel they run together.  They are busy people but comfortable in their lives.  When their oldest daughter Felicity becomes ill on a school trip to France, Natty goes to be with her and bring her home.  Natty’s best friend Eve offers to stay with Sean and their other daughter Alice to help out at the house while Natty is away.  Natty is thankful for her friend.

But should she be?

Eve has other plans in mind.  Playing the role of the perfect “wife substitute’ she plays right into everything that Natty would not.  She cooks and cleans, catering to both Sean and Alice.

When Natty returns home with Felicity she finds that Eve has taken her spot not only in her home, but in her bed.  Shell shocked, Natty tries to make sense of how quickly her whole life has crumbled.  Every where she turns it seems that Eve is there, driving Shawn’s car, rubbing what she has done in Natty’s face.

Then Natty receives a mysterious note saying

“she has done this before.”

The note awakens Natty at a new level.  She knows she needs to find out more about her so-called friend, having no idea that the road she is about to take is a deadly one.

Wow. Wow. Wow.  What a great book!  With a synopsis like this, it is all too scary real.  Eve is a kind of crazy evil.  The pace moves along quickly (which I like), and I had to keep listening just to know what was going to happen.  It is definitely an engaging read.  I will definitely be looking for more from this author.

Natty is a great protagonist and Eve is an excellent villain.  There is no middle ground here, the line is clearly drawn and I liked that.  It was refreshing.

I listened to this on audio and Colleen Prendergast was an excellent narrator.  It seems like I keep finding these audio books lately have heavily accented narrators and I think my head needs a break for that, but that is just me.  ;)

Highly recommended.

  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 10 hours and 22 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Dreamscape Media, LLC
  • Audible.com Release Date: October 8, 2014

 

Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon

20130910_185511

Jake has always been a little quieter than the other children.  He has always preferred to stay at home as a young child, and now at seventeen, Jake has only a few select friends.  On the other hand Laney, his younger sister by two years has always been a social butterfly being able to fit in any situation.

Jake’s father Simon who stayed at home with the children writing medical papers while their mother Rachel worked out of the home as a lawyer, has often wondered what he could have done to help Jake fit in more with other children as he grew up.  Had he hung on too tight?  Too protective?

Now, the unthinkable has happened.  There has been a school shooting and Jake along with another boy are the suspected shooters.  But where is Jake?  While his blood is found on school property, Jake is nowhere to be found.  Simon and Rachel can not believe their son would do such a thing and as the press and the parents of the victims press in wanting answers about Jake, Simon wonders again… what could he have done differently – and more importantly, were was their son now?

 

 

Finding Jake was a hard but important read.  I read this book in two days, devouring the pages and experiencing this tragedy through Jake’s parents eyes.  It is always hard to know what to say about books like this.  It is well written.  Author Bryan Reardon puts you right there and my heart stayed in my throat most of this book wondering who would find Jake – his parents, the police… and when they did, then what?

I highly recommend this read.  If you ever read Nineteen Minutes or We Need To Talk About Kevin, you need to read Finding Jake.  This is not the book you think it will be.

 

 

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (February 24, 2015)

 

 

Doctor Death by Lene Kaaberbol

Doctor Death, Lene Kaaberbol, Book Journey

Madeleine Karno would like nothing more than to become a pathologist like her father.  To Madeleine, autopsies are incredibly scientific and the human body holds many secrets… even after death.  However, the year is 1894 and the world that Madeleine knows finds the process of autopsy to be unholy even for a man such as her father… for Madeleine it is unheard of.  Instead she must quietly remain as her father’s assistant.

Then a young girl is found murdered and her family will not hear of an autopsy.  Madeleine and her father notice some odd things but are not allowed to move forward with an investigation.  When the Priest who spoke at the girls funeral is found dead as well, Madeleine finds she must pursue the connects between the two murders… no matter what the cost.

 

 

 

 

I chose to read this book because I am a sucker for a strong female protagonist and I liked the idea of a father daughter team.  I was not disappointed.

Let’s just say it is hard to be a girl with a mind of your own in the 19th century.  Madeleine has her work cut our for her not only because she is a woman, but because the body count is growing.  I enjoyed Madeleine’s character very much, I liked her strength and her intelligence throughout the book.  She never felt over the top.

There are some unusual settings in the book and that is all I am going to say about that. The story itself set as a historical mystery is a good one and a genre I am finding out that I enjoy dabbling in once in a while.  While the book started out a little slow to my liking, and there were some questions I do not feel were answered, it was still a fairly good read.

 

Lene is also the author of The Boy In The Suitcase.

 

  • Series: Madeleine Karno Mysteries
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books (February 17, 2015)

 

 

 

 

 

An Appetite For Violets by Martine Bailey (*Best Of 2015)

An Appetite Of Violets, Martine Bailey, Book Journey

It is the late 1700’s and Biddy Leigh, the under cook for Mawton Hall is ready to start her future.  Soon her beau, Jem, will be announcing their plans to marry and their dream of opening up their own tavern will begin. Yet other plans are at stake that are out of Biddy’s control.  When her master marries the much younger Lady Carinna, Biddy is unwillingly selected to go on a year-long journey to Italy as her new mistresses cook.  A book called, The Cooks Jewel, handed down from generation of cooks, is given to Biddy to take on her adventures to document the recipes she learns along the way.

In London Biddy encounters the handsome Kit, her Mistresses brother.  He is curious about his sisters travels and asks Biddy to find out more about Carinna’s reason to suddenly pack up for Italy leaving her new husband sickly at home.  Charmed by Kit’s attention Biddy starts to pay more attention to what her mistress is up to.

As the secrets unravel, and the real reason that Biddy has been requested to come on this journey unfold, Biddy finds herself in a place that is both frightening and invigorating. As her desire to return back tot he home she once knew starts to fade, a new future appears to be on the horizon.  If only Biddy has the courage to take the steps to make it happen.

 

An Unrivaled Chocolate Ice Cream

Take a pint of good cream, a heaped spoonful of best chocolate scraped, put it in when the cream boils and stir them well together, add the yolks of two eggs and sweeten it to your taste, let the eggs have a boil to thicken it.  When cold put it in your freezing pot of pewter and plunge into a wooden pail.  Pack about entirely with pounded ice and salt. When the mixture begins to firm about the sides stir it with the spaddle so that all may be equally thick and smooth and frozen. 

As made for Biddy Leigh, by Signor Renzo Cellini, Easter 1773

 

 

I honestly am gushing over this surprise book.  Gushing because it is brilliant and captured my attention from the start.  Surprising because I chose to read this book for my interest in the recipes woven within it and was not expecting to find an excellent read as well.

The recipes were not as I expected.  They are recipes for the times… the 1700’s and a cook who made do with what she had available to her, while interestingly enough, (a cure for illness is burning a piece of toast in the fire, then running hot water through the blackened toast into a cup for the person to drink.  If that does not work, do it again.) I don’t see myself attempting to make any of these recipes soon.

An Appetite For Violets by debut author Martine Bailey is a book I am suggesting you do not miss out on.  It is a fun historical read with snooty servants, and upper class people – but mostly… it is about Biddy and how she transforms throughout the book is delightful.  As I finished I was still putting pieces together like, “Oh, that is why she ….”

Well written.  Highly recommended.  Biddy Leigh is a remarkably smart and witty protagonist that I found to be spot on.  The author truly has her finger (or her wooden spoon) on the pulse of the 1700’s.  I absolutely loved it.

 

 

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; First Edition edition (January 13, 2015)

 

 

Note:  I looked on Amazon thinking somehow I was not privy to this amazing book and clearly many others had to be. I was surprised to see it had only 38 reviews.  I think this book is a diamond in the rough and honestly, need to read this book.

 

Adding this post to Weekend Cooking

2ab

 

 

 

This Is What You Just Put In Your Mouth by Patrick Di Justo

That is what you put in your mouth, Patrick Di Justo, Book Journey

At one time or another you have probably wondered what some of the ingredients listed on a package really are.  And, if you are like me, you soon forgot you were curious because a) the item is tasty good, b) who has time to look that stuff up, or more than likely c) do you really want to know?

Author Patrick Di Justo wrote the articles called What’s Inside for the magazine Wired.  He took his investigation of products to the CEO’s of companies (who may or may not get back to him with his questions).  He also researched deep into the archives on Google and followed products back to their beginning.

The result?  Patrick discovered some interesting things about the foods we put in our mouth.  Some are interesting, some are disgusting, some are funny… and some… involved a call (or two or three) to the FDA.

So what really does make that Cheese Whiz can eject that line of cheese product?  If I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter isn’t butter…. what is it?  And do we want to know what is in a Slim Jim or would we rather just enjoy the spicy snappy flavor and not think about it?

 

 

Now before you decide this book if this book is for you, hear me out.

This Is What You Put In Your Mouth is actually an interesting read and not necessarily as disgusting as you may initially think.  Sure there is talk about dies that are not good for us, and ingredients that are not only in chewing gum that can also inflate a tire…but for the most part you are not reading about to many gross and disgusting things.

The layout of the book is a product will be listed with its ingredients and a description laid out of what the ingredients are.  Occasionally Patrick will add his own funny take on an ingredient.  Then, there will be a “backstory”.  This is where Patrick shares what steps he took on this product to track down the makers for more information.  AT first they would be excited to hear that their product would be featured in a magazine.  That is, until they read the magazine and seen what Patrick really wrote about.  The cooperation of the company or not did not change the fact that Patrick would write about it.

Not everything in the book is for eating.  Patrick also talks about cleaning products, fire starter logs and gasoline.

Here is a fun little video – see below to get what is going on here.


 

This video is actually about one of the products that Patrick had written about (and he talks about in the book about this product, and this video).  What happened was PBS ran a segment called What’s Inside.  Watch between 1:30 and 1:33 on the video.  You will see there is a product on the table that Chris does not talk about.  At the end of the video there are clearly 10 items on the table by Chris only talks about 9 of them.  The item that was deleted off the video (cut during those three seconds) was sexual lubricant.  PBS did not want this talked about on air so it was cut before the show aired.

While the book was interesting, it is more of a book you want to skim and look for items you are interested in knowing more about than trying to read like a regular book.

I will be adding this to Weekend Cooking as this post is about food.  Sort of.  ;)

2ab

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press (February 3, 2015)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC

 

 

 

 

My Father’s Wives by Mike Greenberg

Mike Greenberg, My Father's Wives, Book Journey, TLC Book Tours

Jonathon Sweetwater has a pretty wonderful life.  He has a good paying job, a beautiful wife, and two children he adores.  When he comes home early from work one afternoon… things suddenly look as thought they could change in ways that Jonathon never anticipated or wanted.

Now, Jonathon is holding on to a secret that is ripping him apart.  As he questions how his life has gone wrong, he is brought back to the memory of his father who left when he was 9 years old and proceeded to marry again 5 more times.  His father now having passed away, Jonathon knows he does not want to follow down the same path his father went when it came to women.  Jonathon decides that maybe now is the time to search out each of these past wives and find out more about the man who was his father, a man he hardly knew, and maybe at the same time answer questions about himself.

 

 

I first read author Mike Greenberg in his book, All You Could Ask For.  I have to say, for being a radio host for ESPN and ABC, the man can get in touch with great protagonists, both male and female.

In My Father’s Wives, I enjoyed the flow of this book about a man searching for answers to help him with his own life and his own marriage.  Clearly left with issues from his father’s departure from his life at such a young age, it was an interesting take to search out each of the wives. Once again, I am impressed on how well Mike Greenberg can write female characters.   Right along this story line is also Jonathan keeping up with an unusual boss, his desire to be with his family, and working out the proper steps to take in his marriage that may or may not be in jeopardy.

I really enjoyed this read.  It moved well from page to page and I had no trouble finishing this read in one sitting.  I was thoroughly engaged in what would happen and how it would all work out.  Mike Greenberg is an author I keep an eye on.  A quick and enjoyable read.

 

 

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (January 20, 2015)

 

Thank you to TLC book tours for giving me the opportunity to read  and review another excellent book by Mike Greenberg

tlc-tour-host

 

Anything That Moves by Dana Goodyear

1a2a

We live is a crazy exciting and sometimes strange world.  In today’s day and age we find adventurists of all sorts… extreme sports, people pushing themselves to lengths they never had before, and yes – extreme eaters as well.

There is a movement of adventure eaters – the more unusual the ingredients, the more rare (even illegal), the better.  In Anything That Moves they eat live octopus, shark fin, blood coffee, foie gras, pig snout, raw goat milk…

Health benefits to eating raw and unprocessed?  The history of the food we eat?  It’s all here.

 

 

I am the person who watched Survivor or Fear Factor and when it comes to the gross food challenges (unhatched birds, grub worms, bugs, etc…) I immediately announce to the TV screen and to my husband that I am out.  As I watch the people gag on the TV I wonder why they even try to eat it when they know they can not win this one.  For the record, Al calls that he is out on all height challenges.

 

1aaAt points in this book I am appalled.  At other times fascinated.  Not being an extreme eater myself, I am not entirely sure if I am impressed or disgusted with extreme eating… I think both.  Dana Goodrow handles this book with facts.  She takes the reader into restaurants like Nose to Tail where they literally eat everything in between.  A party called the Weed Party where the host puts marijuana in all the dishes to his fully aware guests.  Stinkbugs with a slice of apple.  Extreme?  Indeed.  At least to me.

I enjoyed this book learning about foods that I am pretty sure I would not consider eating.  I liked learning about some of the traditions in other countries.  Anything That Movies is written with humor.  As a foodie I am glad I read it.  I now know facts that will disgust my friends.

 

 

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Trade; Reprint edition (November 4, 2014)

This review is linked to Weekend Cooking

2ab

 

In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

In a Sunburned Country, Bill Bryson, Book Journey, Australia

If You have heard of the book/now movie A Million Ways To Die In The West than you must also know there are a million ways to die in Australia; or at least according to humorous author Bill Bryson there is.  Crocodiles, poisonous spiders, sharks, and lots of miles of hot desert with no relief in sight are just to name a few.

Bill Bryson shares his adventures of visiting the Land Down Under mixed with true experiences of a killer sun burn, scary hotels, miles of driving to look at famous (or not) spots, as well as a good dose of history in this amazing area; In A Sun Burned Country will give you a pleasant mix of what Australia is like today, and how it was discovered.

 

When this book showed up in Candace’s guest post about books recommended either about Australia or with Australian authors, this is the one that caught my attention.  Why not read a book about the country I was about to visit by an author that was known for his humor.  I liked the fact that I was not about to read a dry commentary on Australia and I dug in.

Bill Bryson is definitely an author to experience.  Not only did I learn interesting facts about the country of Australia and the places it is known for, but I also laughed along the way as I read.  (You must read about the history of the Opera house and what happened to the man who designed it.  EEP!)  I found myself quoting this book frequently through the trip including reading passages out loud to my fellow travelers.

I read this one on the plane to Australia, and while on the cruise ship.  I found it interesting, insightful, and full of fun – exactly the type of book you want to read on vacation.  I highly recommend it to anyone who is going to experience (or has experienced) Australia.

 

 

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (May 15, 2001)

 

Off The Beaten Page by Terri Peterson Smith

Off The Beaten Page, Terri Peterson Smith, Book JOurney, Minnesota

Book Groups who really like to experience their reads will love this book!  ~ Sheila

Off The Beaten Page takes a look at a variety of incredible books and quite literally takes you there.  If you read Devil In The White City how would you like to take a trip to get a bird’s-eye view of Chicago?  The Scarlet Letter or Mystic River could land you in Boston; or in my home state of Minnesota I can go where William Kent Kruger solves his crimes with Cork O’Conner on the north shore, or where F. Scott Fitzgerald (or Charles Lindbergh for that matter), walked and lived in the vast areas of this state.

Off The Beaten Page is a book that will release your imagination to taking the next step within your reading either through the authors or their characters, or their books.  No matter where you live, this book will have you looking at your reading in a whole new way.

9

When Terri Peterson Smith spoke at our local library this past summer I was intrigued by her writing.  I love to do the little extras with my own book club like bringing food and drinks that are mentioned in the book to the discussion.  We even occasionally will dress the part or “set the scene” for our reading as well… yet Terri inspired me to think beyond the walls of the living rooms we meet in.

Off The Beaten Page not only gives suggestions of books to venture our and explore, but also ideas of where to stay and what to do once you get there.  With each state that is suggested, there are a list of books to read that go with the area, sight-seeing suggestions, restaurants, and hotels.

Did you know that Stephen King’s famous book The Shining was created while King stayed in The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado and wound up basing his book off the hotel (the hotel was about to close for the season when King and his wife stayed there, creating the creepy empty atmosphere that led to the book).  The Stanley Hotel is now open year around and plays up the book setting well with a maze (eep!) and a Ghost Adventure package.

Books about books are awesome, and this book takes it to the next level of book adventures.  It doesn’t matter where you live or how far you are willing to travel, there is a book setting everywhere that you can explore.  Off The Beaten Page inspires you to start your own bookish adventures, which I hope to do with our book group as well!

Author Terri Peterson Smith writes a travel blog with suggestions for book clubs.  One of her posts I read today was about the “Gone Girl” experience.  If you live near Cape Girardeau, a lovely river town in southeast Missouri, you can find much of the movie set as well as the book information.  “The Bar” had closed down at the time of the filming of the book, but the owner has reopened it, a now go to place because of the book and the movie.  I think… that is SO cool. :)

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press (May 1, 2013)

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Dark Places, Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl, Book Journey

Libby Day was seven years old when her two sisters and mother were murdered by her fifteen year old brother Ben.  It was little Libby’s testimony that put Ben behind bars for life and now, 24 years later Libby stands by her testimony and has never went to see her convicted brother.

While Libby was a sole survivor of what was known as the “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.”, the term “survive” is a loose definition.  Libby is used to being cared for by a trust fund and has never held down a job.  She suffers from bouts of depression and often finds it hard to get out of bed.  However, the trust fund is running dangerously low after all of these years and Libby needs to figure out what she is going to do with her life and how to finally take control of her future.

When Libby agrees to be paid to speak to a group called The Kill Club, a group of people who follow true crimes, she thinks this will be an easy task.  She is shocked to find out the group has other theories on what really happened that night and they believe Libby’s brother Ben is innocent.  For a fee, Libby agrees to take another look at what happened the night of the killings, which means she will have to reconnect with the shadows of her past.

 

 

 

A few years ago a friend of mine recommended I read this book.  She described it as being even better than Gone Girl (by the same author) and I meant to read it then, but we know how that can go.  Finally, recently I picked up this book and found it engaging right from the start.  While Libby is a strange protagonist (lazy at times, disengaged in real life…) she grew on me.

I flew through this book in two days and enjoyed another twisty turny read from Gillian Flynn.  I guessed at the ending, and I guessed wrong.  It was much more twisted than I had thought and I loved the super craziness of it all.

If Gone Girl was a book you enjoyed to be shocked by, do not miss out on Dark Places.  This book will be a movie released in 2015.  Be ready… I will be. :)

  • Paperback: 349 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; 1 Reprint edition (May 4, 2010)
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,334 other followers