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Review – In Doubt – Drusilla Campbell

in doubt In Doubt
Author: Drusilla Campbell
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Description:
EVERYONE WANTS THE BOY TO PAY FOR HIS CRIME.

ONLY ONE WOMAN WANTS TO SAVE HIM.

Defense Attorney Sophie Giraudo is about to open a new legal practice in her hometown of San Sebastian, California, when the beloved governer is shot and seriously wounded during a celebration in the town park. The only thing more shocking than the crime itself is the identity of the would-be assassin: a seemingly gentle teenager named Donny. Driven by her desire to understand what could make a person with no history of violence suddenly commit such a terrible act, Sophie reluctantly agrees to take him on as a client, knowing that, at least, it will bring her some income. But soon she realizes that she also has personal motivations for taking the case: a desire to prove to her overbearing mother that she is not the reckless and self-destructive tennager she used to be, to prove to her ex-husband, who happens to be the prosecuting attorney, that she can win her case, and to prove to herself that the traumatic events of her adolescence no longer define her.

As she digs deeper into Donny’s past, Sophie begins to suspect that he might not be the cold-blooded killer everyone thinks he is. Does Donny’s narcissistic mother really have her son’s best interest in mind? Is Donny’s mentor who runs Boys Into Men, a program for disadvantaged youths, the altruistic man he claims to be? Is Donny a deranged murderer, or a victim of his circumstances acting out of desperation? As Sophie races to uncover the truth, she is forced to come to terms with her past and to fight for what she knows is right…even if it means risking her reputation and possibly her life.

Review:
I’ve quite often come across Ms Campbell’s books in my library, but have never actually picked one up – in fact, I’ve even borrowed them at least once – but for some reason they kept getting shuffled to the bottom of the pile and then being returned unread. However, when I saw In Doubt in the automatic approval list at NetGalley, I was intrigued enough by the description that I took a chance and downloaded it. I will say that if I had seen the descriptor of Jodi Picoult meets John Grisham prior, I likely wouldn’t have downloaded it because neither of those authors are favorites of mine (in fact, I’m not a fan of the marketing method that compares one author to others, mostly because to me, they never seem to live up to the recommendation – or they far exceed it).

This book seemed to be particularly apt with the amount of public shootings that have gone on the last few years, in particular, the shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords in Arizona – but what if you looked at the shooter – quite often, we the public are so quick to judge the shooter, never really knowing what may have been gonig on in their background. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying, anything excuses the shooting and death of people, but there may be external reasons that affected the individuals behavior (and not just mental health ones, like is automatically assumed). In Doubt attempts to do just that.

What happens when a defense lawyer decides to take on the case of a young man who shot and grievously wounded the governor. He never even denies doing it – but he also doesn’t know why. Without getting too much into a spoiler realm, Ms Campbell wove a story that was believable and made me feel sorry for Donny.

I will say that I felt some of the storyline towards the end started to bordering a bit on the over angsty side – it went a bit too far for me – but that was only enough for me to drop my original rating from 4 stars, down to 3.5.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – Come Home to Me – Brenda Novak

come home to meCome Home to Me
Author: Brenda Novak
Series: #6 in the Whiskey Creek series

Review Copy Provided by the Author

Description:
Home is where her heart is…

When Presley Christensen returns to Whiskey Creek with her little boy after two years away, she has completely changed her life. She’s made peace with her past and overcome the negative behavior that resulted from her difficult childhood. Now she’s back in the small town that was the closest thing to “home” she ever knew—the town where she can be with the sister who’s her only family.

There’s just one catch. Aaron Amos still lives in Whiskey Creek, at least until he moves to Reno to open a branch of the Amos brothers’ auto body shop. And no matter how hard she’s tried, Presley hasn’t been able to get over him. Seeing him again makes the longing so much worse. But she hopes she can get through the next few months, because she can’t fall back into his arms…or his bed. She’s come too far to backslide now. And there’s a secret she’s been guarding—a secret she’ll do anything to protect.

Review:
!This review includes spoilers!

I think I sub-consciously knew going into this book that I was going to have issues with it. Mostly because of how the storyline featuring Presley played out in a previous book in the series (#2 When Snow Falls). I knew there was going to be a secret baby theme and I hoped that I was going to be ok with it and for the most part I was…it wasn’t that part of the story that I had issues with, although I did feel as though the relationship between Presley and Aaron kind of took a backseat to other interactions between Presley/Cheyenne (her sister); Cheyenne/Aaron; Aaron/Dylan (his brother) and Cheyenne/Dylan. This book felt much more like a women’s lit rather than a traditional romance and while Presley/Aaron did get their HEA (although it felt more like a HFN).

My biggest issue with the book in general was the whole behavior of Cheyenne and the lengths that she would go to, to get what she wants. If the fact that she would ask her husband’s brother to donate his sperm so that she could have a baby, wasn’t bad enough, the fact that she did it without letting her husband know – that it was done all covertly – it was just wrong on sooo many levels. In fact, if this had been in print, the book may have gone flying across the room…it felt like the story basically consisted of the Cheyenne/Aaron storyline with just tidbits about Presley/Aaron which disappointed me – it was like they got gypped of their story.

This is by far my least favorite in the series so far and looking back, I almost wish I hadn’t read it, because it kind of ruined the previous books that I enjoyed. I’m honestly not sure if I will continue the series or not because of my disappointment. Overall, I gave Come Home to Me, 2.5 stars, but rounded up to 3 on GR, because I can’t deny that Ms Novak can write in a way that sucks you in, it was just the storyline that didn’t work for me.

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – Drawing Free – Elena Aitken

drawing freeDrawing Free
Author: Elena Aitken

Review Copy Provided by the Author

Description:
“What would happen if I just kept driving?”

Moms aren’t supposed to have a life of their own, at least that’s what Becca Thompson believes. Between dealing with her youngest’s never ending tantrums, her teenager’s attitude and her ailing father’s rapidly failing memory, Becca doesn’t have time to worry about who she used to be.

Deep down, Becca knows she wants more than the daily chaos and the quick fixes her self-help books have to offer, but when her husband starts demanding more, the pressure proves to be too much. On the way to pick up her daughter, she makes the split second decision to take a different exit off the freeway and drives towards the mountains leaving her crumbling life in the rear-view mirror.

Fleeing to a remote mountain town, Becca knows she must rediscover her spirit, even if reconnecting with herself comes at the expense of everything she left behind.

Review:
“I was so stuck on being what I thought I should be, that I couldn’t be who I needed to be. ~ Becca

This quote that appeared at the end of one of the final chapters really sums up what I thought about the book. At first, I wasn’t sure what I was going to think about it, because in all honestly, I didn’t have a lot in common with Becca, I don’t have kids, I’m not married, I’m relatively secure in where I am in my life (or at least I think I am). But it really made me think. Not just about her situation, but about life in general. How often do we make choices/decisions based on what we think we should, because of how society dictates we act, vice, how we want to act/want to do. And then there is the abundance of so-called “self-help” books that give you advice on how to make these decisions. But as it was explored in Drawing Free, sometimes they provide conflicting information, they often don’t take into account specific circumstances, and as with many things, one size (piece of advice) does not suit all.

There were a lot of life lessons that could be described as being in the story, primarily the reminder to live every day as if it were your last (or in the infamous words of Tim McGraw, live like you were dying). But also to remember that there is nothing wrong with trying to reach for your dreams, don’t fore-go them – but keep trying. I will say however, that I HATED the kids in the book – they drove me mental. I can safely say, that if I had ever behaved that way in public, or talked to my parents that way that I would have had my mouth washed out with soap and likely would have had my butt wholloped…but then, I grew up in the 1980’s when it was still kosher for kids to be spanked at times (but that is a story for another day).

However, Drawing Free did have a hot button topic for me which I kind of wish had been disclosed somewhere in the description – because there are people who find certain topics are no go’s – in this case it was cheating. I HATED what Becca did, in fact, up to that point, I liked her journey and the cheating just ruined her character for me…I didn’t feel like she regretted her actions, or even took responsibility for them. It also seemed like there was no resolution between Becca and her husband about what happened…the ending in general, sucked!! I was disappointed with how it all turned out…

It was primarily the ending that made me give it 3 stars. It there had been more of a resolution, it probably would have gotten 4 stars from me. But that being said, I hope that EA writes more books in the future – because I am curious to see what else she comes up with.

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – Bring Back My Body To Me – Rita Ciresi

bring back my body to meBring Back My Body To Me
Author: Rita Ciresi

Description:
Getting cancer in your twenties is hardly a picnic. But in this sparkling romantic comedy by Rita Ciresi, two young cancer survivors manage to meet, fall in love, and live to laugh about it.

Twenty-seven-year-old Francie Malarkey has one remaining relative left on earth: her Great-Uncle Sol, a concentration camp survivor whose last grand mission is to see Francie happily married (preferably to a cardiac surgeon). Francie, however, has zero interest in getting hitched to some guy who actually knows the Latin names for her more intimate body parts. Although she would love to claim that she met Mr. Right at a noisy New Year’s Eve party, her initial encounter with her husband-to-be comes to pass in a hushed hospital waiting room marked with fallout shelter symbols. Joel Goldman–like Francie–is a young cancer survivor who happens to be sitting underneath a warning sign–DANGER! RADIATION IN USE!–that seems to imply that love is a risky business best undertaken by AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY.

Francie and Joel’s courtship would be a dream come true. . . if only Great-Uncle Sol would stop insisting that Francie needs to marry a doctor instead of a guy who already has one foot in the grave. . . if only Joel’s doctor-father would stop trying to micromanage his son’s medical care. . . and if only Francie and Joel learn to accept the fact that any person on earth can pass through death’s door without a moment’s notice.

Review:
This year, I’ve made it my goal to try and clear some of the books off my virtual TBR pile that have been languishing there for a while. While BBMBTM has only been there just over a year, I figured that was long enough and so I settled in to read it. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with the whole experience. This was a case where the book description (above, which is on both Goodreads and Amazon0 basically tells you everything that is going to happen. I found there to be few surprises or twists, which contributed to my disappointment.

Added to that, I couldn’t understand why the author had chosen to set a book that was released in 2012, in 1997 – there didn’t really seem to be any plot twists that needed that time period. The only thing I can think of is that she needed something that would work with Francie’s Uncle’s age/life experiences. While brings me to a third gripe – wayy to much of the book was devoted to Uncle Sol. While he seemed to be important in Francie’s life – in the book, he just seemed to drive her nuts (and not in a good way). As a character he was much more defined and developed than Francie/Joel and they were supposed to be the primary ones. The author seemed to also have a hard time figuring out how important the romance was going to be to the plot – from the description, I was expecting a lot more than I got. I couldn’t figure out if she didn’t know how to write it, or just didn’t follow through – but ultimately, I was disappointed.

I gave BBMBTM 2 stars on Goodreads, but it is probably more like 1.5 – I finished it through sheer tenacity – it wasn’t a long read (about 200 pages), but it just seemed to drag. I don’t think I’ll be trying any more books by the author in the future.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – Outside the Lines – Amy Hatvany

outside the linesOutside the Lines
Author: Amy Hatvany

Review Copy Provided by Author

Description:
When Eden was ten years old she found her father, David, bleeding out on the bathroom floor. The suicide attempt led to her parents’ divorce, and David all but vanished from Eden’s life. Since childhood, she has heard from him only rarely, just enough to know he’s been living on the streets and struggling with mental illness. But lately, there has been no word at all.

Now in her thirties, Eden decides to go look for her father, so she can forgive him at last, and finally move forward. When her search uncovers other painful truths—not only the secrets her mother has kept from her, but also the agonizing question of whether David, after all these years, even wants to be found—Eden is forced to decide just how far she’ll go in the name of love.

Review:
I rarely write a review for a book as soon as I finish it because I want to let my thoughts sit and mold in my mind for a few days. So i’m actually not sure why I am writing this review right now – but it just feels like I need to write about it. Maybe it is just me, but there seem to be so few fiction books that deal with mental illness as a topic, that when I find one I want to savor it. Which I did with Outside the Lines. Normally a book of its length would take me 2-3 days to read – but I purposely dragged it out because I was afraid of what the outcome was going to be. I felt like the author was setting me up for some kind of heart-break. But don’t worry, no spoilers here.

I really liked how the author was able to walk the line between sappy happy go lucky/preachy at times, and in depth makes you think writing. I had so many questions come up as I was reading – how did the title relate (this is actually explained); why do we as a society treat people with mental illness the way that we do (I am of a firm belief that traditional medicine isn’t the be-all, end-all that it is purported to be) and how does a family try to have a “normal” life (if that is the correct word) when there is that stigma of mental illness hanging over their heads.

While I often find flash-backs a harder story-telling method to use, in this instance it worked, and it was interesting seeing how the flash-backs progressed through time – until they met up with the current time-line. The ending was not all that unexpected – I had kind of hoped for a miracle, but at the same time, I like how it ended, because it wasn’t perfect. The book would have totally jumped the sharked, if everything that been all tied up in a pretty pink ribbon. I was left with questions and thoughts – which likely are going to keep me intrigued in the near future. I also added the other 2 books by the author to my massive to-be-read pile. Overall, I would give Outside the Lines, a strong 4 stars.

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – Tapestry of Fortunes – Elizabeth Berg

tapestry of fortunesTapestry of Fortunes
Author: Elizabeth Berg

Review Copy Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss

Description:
Cecilia Ross is looking for a change. She has decided to take time off from her job as a successful motivational speaker and sell her home. She moves in to a beautiful old house in St. Paul, Minnesota, complete with a big front porch, a wild garden, a chef’s kitchen-and three roommates. The four women are different ages, but all are feeling restless, and want to take a roadtrip to find again the people and things they miss. One woman wants to connect with a daughter she gave away at birth; another wants to visit her long-absent ex-husband; a third woman, a professional chef, is seeking new inspiration from the restaurants along the way. And Cecilia is looking for Dennis Halsinger, the man she never got over, who recently sent her a postcard out of the blue.

Review:
I have to admit that I am a sucker for pretty covers, and this one was eye-catching to me, the butterfly, the teacup and the flowers – I kind of wondering how (if at all), those elements were going to play into the story. And while they could have been symbolisitc, I think that in general, it was just supposed to be a pretty cover, that women would buy and hopefully talk about. That being said, I also enjoyed the story. It kind of reminded me of Kristin Hannah, but slightly less dramatic – it had some shades of Firefly Lane in it, but focusing more on the future, rather than the past/present.

I like Cecilia as a character in the beginning, although by the end, she was starting to get a bit annoying – I think she felt realer (is that a word) at the beginning when there was the emotional overload, and towards the end it was like, you saw the her that she had projected to people over the years, and I didn’t like her…I guess that is just the price you pay for private and public personas…

The road trip was the favorite part of the book for me – mostly because I am a sucker for road trip stories – and love going on them – finding the out of the way places around the country. Those little diner’s that are unique in their settings (yes, I love Guy Fieri’s Diners, Dive’s and Drive-thru’s…). One day I would love to just be able to jump in my car and travel like that…overall, i would give Tapestry of Fortunes, 3.5 stars, but rounding up to 4. I am curious to read some other books by the author, since some friends who also read this, said that they didn’t enjoy it as much…so i’m intrigued.

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Audiobook Review – Weekend Warriors – Fern Michaels

Weekend Warriors
Author: Fern Michaels
Series: #1 in the Sisterhood series

Narrator: Laural Merlington
Run Time: 6 hours and 6 minutes

Book Description:
The first in an exhilarating new series following a group of extraordinary women who are out to see justice done … a step at a time Nikki Quinn is devastated when her best friend Barbara is knocked down and killed by a hit-and-run driver who claims diplomatic immunity. But Nikki has her work and her lover, fellow lawyer Jack Nolan, to keep her going, whereas Barbara’s mother, Myra, has nothing. Festering in a sea of recriminations and hatred, unable to gain a sense of perspective, Myra is lost…until one day she switches on the evening news and sees Marie Lewellen, mother of a murder victim, take matters into her own hands and stab her daughter’s killer. An idea is born, and within months Myra and Nikki have drawn together a group of women who have one thing in common: they have been failed by the American justice system, they’re down but they’re not out, and they’re ready to find their nemeses and make them pay. First up is Kathryn, a long-distance truck driver who was raped at a road stop by three motorcyclists as her paralysed husband watched, helpless. Banding together, the Sisterhood plot the ultimate revenge — but with dissension from inside the group and out, there’s no saying if the plan will work until the moment of truth arrives

Review:
In the words of my non-existant Jewish grandmother, oy vey…where to start…looking back over my reading history, I don’t know if I had ever picked up a Fern Michaels book before, but after listening to Weekend Warriors, I can tell you for certain that I won’t be picking up one in the future. Whoever classifies this book as a romance has some serious delusions – there is nothing romantic about male castration as a form of revenge (yes, this is completely spoiler-ish and I don’t care). I didn’t see one whit of romance in any of the going-ons in this book. I would more accurately describe it as revenge based women’s lit and not even good on that account. Thankfully, it was only 6 hours long in audio format (so about 220 pages and I managed to listen to most of it in just over 2 days – this is one time that I wasn’t too mad at my long commute because I could simple tune out when needed). If I hadn’t had this scheduled into several different reading challenges, I might have even DNF’d it – but since I did, I persevered.

The premise had potential – a group of women, gathering to together to right the wrong’s done to them by the legal system. But it was the execution that just didn’t hold water – one of the main characters was a lawyer and she almost immediately says that she’ll be involved…now, I know there are corrupt lawyers (as there are individuals in any career field), but to knowingly agree to commit the crimes that were discussed as revenge just made me cringe. Not only that but this super rich woman decides to essentially invest all her money into this scheme (since it was her idea to begin with) and all of a sudden she has a technology suite to rival something you might see in the Batman movies for technical prowess and a “butler” who is like an ex-CIA agent…and it just doesn’t improve much from there…

I wish I could say that the narration helped to improve on a bad book, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case either. I’m not sure if I have ever listened to anything narrated by Laurel Merlington before, and am not sure if I will seek her out again in the future. Maybe if it were for a book by a favorite author, but I wouldn’t listen to anything by an unknown author and narrated by her because in general I struggled. Yes, she was a competent narrator, but it just seemed like there was something missing. I had a hard time visualizing the different characters in my head because there didn’t seem to be much vocal differentiation between them – and when you have a cast of 10 women, 5 of whom are fairly dominate that is something that is needed.

I know that I could not recommend the author, and would hesitate to recommend the narrator to anyone. But that being said, I would be more inclined to give the narrator a second chance than the author…overall, 1 star for the book, 2 stars for the narration – 1.5 stars overall.

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2012 in Book Review

 

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