Thursday, July 30, 2015

High Country Nocturne: A David Mapstone Mystery (David Mapstone Mystery #8) by Jon Talton

A cache of diamonds is stolen in Phoenix. The prime suspect is former Maricopa County Sheriff Mike Peralta, now a private investigator. Disappearing into Arizona’s mountainous High Country, Peralta leaves his business partner and longtime friend David Mapstone with a stark choice. He can cooperate with the FBI, or strike out on his own to find Peralta and what really happened.

Mapstone knows he can count on his wife Lindsey, one of the top “good hackers” in law enforcement. But what if they’ve both been betrayed? Mapstone is tested further when the new sheriff wants him back as a deputy, putting to use his historian’s expertise to solve a very special cold case. The stakes turn deadly when David and Lindsey are stalked by a trained killer whose specialty is “suiciding” her targets.

In depressed, post-recession Phoenix, every certainty has become scrambled, from the short hustle of the powerful real-estate industry to the loyalties Mapstone once took for granted. Could Peralta really be a jewel thief or worse? The deeper Mapstone digs into the world of sun-baked hustlers, corrupt cops, moneyed retirees, and mobsters, the more things are not what they seem. Ultimately, Mapstone must risk everything to find the truth.
High Country Nocturne is an ambitious, searing, and gritty novel, with a fast-paced story as hard-edged as the stolen diamonds themselves.

 An intriguing story from the start. The whole of chapter one reads “In the end, the truth was almost beside the point”. This book is about the 9th in a series about private investigator David Mapstone. Mapstone is a history major/former sheriff who has to figure out what is going on when it seems his partner shot a guard and stole some diamonds. 

The story is not only a whodunit but a “what really happened” mystery (hence the first chapter). The list of possible bad characters not only include his possible rogue partner but also the FBI, a random hit woman, and his girlfriend. The character’s (and by some extent, the author himself) love of Phoenix, Arizona is evident in the rich descriptions throughout the book.

 Not having read any books prior to this one, I’m not sure if the love expressed for what was Arizona before people and housing developments moved in is as evident in his other books. The various angles of the story coupled with such detailed descriptions of the city makes for a great story overall.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Roberta

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Nurses: A Year of Secrets, Drama, and Miracles with the Heroes of the Hospital by Alexandra Robbins

In this lively, fast-paced narrative, New York Times bestselling author Alexandra Robbins digs deep into the subculture of nursing, drawing readers into a brilliantly captivating in-depth investigation of the extraordinary working lives of nurses and the shocking behind-the-scenes secrets that all patients and their loved ones need to know.

The Nurses is told through the real-life stories of four women in different hospitals: Molly, funny, well-loved, and confident enough to quit a longtime job after her hospital ramps up its anti-nurse policies. Lara, a superstar nurse who tries to battle her way back from a near-ruinous prescription-drug addiction. The outspoken but compassionate Juliette, a fierce advocate for her patients. And Sam, a first-year nurse, struggling to find her way in a gossipy mean-girl climate she likens to “high school, except for the dying people.”

The result is a riveting page-turner, insightful and thought-provoking, that will leave readers feeling smarter about their healthcare and undeniably appreciative of the incredible nurses who provide it. 

Starting the book I was excited to read and see what it’s like for nurses working every day in the chaos that is their life and career. Prior to reading this book I never really thought about all the nurses that work all the time right along with the doctors. I never stopped to think about how hard the nurses work and how emotional it can be for them.

 I really enjoyed reading the different viewpoints of the nurses and getting to learn a little bit about each of them; as I finished reading about each of these people I learned how their job becomes either a small or big part of them. There were some parts in The Nurses where I laughed and other parts where I was just as mad as the nurses or where I cried as if I was the nurse having to deal with that particular situation.  

I loved how Ms. Robbins had written and put the book together. It was easy to read and the stories flowed well from one person’s story to another’s. By the end of the book I realized that the nurses are the ones who keep the doctors going and usually have to deal with the rude people more than any other medical staff. 

They do more for the patients than the doctors ever do and I feel like they should get more recognition than they do! I think The Nurses is a great way to give them some well-deserved recognition in the world. I give The Nurses and Alexandra Robbins a “10.”

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Tiffany

Friday, July 24, 2015

Summer Secrets by Jane Green

June, 1998: At twenty seven, Catherine Coombs, also known as Cat, is struggling. She lives in London, works as a journalist, and parties hard. Her lunchtimes consist of several glasses of wine at the bar downstairs in the office, her evenings much the same, swigging the free booze and eating the free food at a different launch or party every night. When she discovers the identity of the father she never knew she had, it sends her into a spiral. She makes mistakes that cost her the budding friendship of the only women who have ever welcomed her. And nothing is ever the same after that.

June, 2014: Cat has finally come to the end of herself. She no longer drinks. She wants to make amends to those she has hurt. Her quest takes her to Nantucket, to the gorgeous summer community where the women she once called family still live. Despite her sins, will they welcome her again? What Cat doesn’t realize is that these women, her real father’s daughters, have secrets of their own. As the past collides with the present, Cat must confront the darkest things in her own life and uncover the depths of someone’s need for revenge.

 I have long been a fan of Jane Green's novels. She's one of those authors that when I see her name on a book, I instantly want to read it. Thus my immediate response to discovering Summer Secrets was "I've got to read that"! I generally don't know how drawn I would be to a novel about someone who is trying to overcome a drinking problem, as sometimes they can be hard to read and even harder to feel empathetic towards. I knew though that if anyone could pull me in on such a dark topic it would be Ms.Green. My instincts were dead on!

 Summer Secrets instantly had me riveted with writing that's not only emotional and insightful, but also very thought-provoking. I never once thought " wow this chick just needs to get her crap together and stop making excuses". No. Cat actually didn't make excuses. At least not after she admitted to herself she had a problem. She misjudged, mistook, and lied, especially to herself but she never once blamed it on anyone but her. I found that very refreshing. To my surprise I felt great sympathy for Cat as she described her past and current struggles. 

The whole book was not dreary and depressing though as one may think. It actually had quite a few bright spots. One being a fun best pal and of course the beautiful descriptions of Nantucket. The atmosphere of Nantucket truly flowed straight off the pages for me. Giving me a wistful longing to pack up and vacation there in a quaint classic home, tan on the peaceful beaches, and sample the local eateries. Summer Secrets seems to be written in much the same tone as Tempting Fate, also by Ms. Jane Green, and I think those who enjoyed it as much as I did would also like this novel as well. 

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  April

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sherman Dances by Douglas D. Goble

Sherman Dances by Douglas D. Goble is a children’s book that introduces children to the principles of movement.  Sherman is a mile-long snake who travels up the California coast to learn how.  He learns a series of dance steps called the brain dance.  In addition, he learns about non-locomotor movements such as twist, turn, and stretch.  He learns about locomotor movements like skip, jump, and gallop.  He learns about pathways and making shapes on high, medium, and low levels.   He also visits places that are reminders of famous dancers such as Paul Taylor, Alvin Ailey, and Gene Kelly.  He even learns about the dance moves of Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley.
            Each page contains questions that encourage children to perform the actions that are described on the page.  For example, on the Michael Jackson Page, children are asked if they can balance on both of their toes.  I think this would be a great book to teach children the elementary principles of dance.  Parents and children could do the movements suggested by the questions as well. 
            The end of the book contains short facts about the famous dancers mentioned in the book as well as a glossary of important dance words.  It would be fun to read the book and use YouTube to look up dances from the famous performers mentioned.  That way, children could be exposed to a great variety of dancers and choreographers.
            I love books that are fun and interesting while at the same time they teach children.  There are not many children’s’ books that I know of that instruct on the fundamental principles of dance.  The drawings in Sherman Dances are very simple and the text is not overly complicated, but children will have a great time learning about dancing!  Coupled with videos of the famous dancers mentioned (as well as doing the movements suggested), it is a great interactive resource.
*All opinions are my own.  Regina

Purchase Sherman Dances on Amazon HERE

Monday, July 20, 2015

Ella by Mallory Kasdan ( Author), Marcos Chin (Illustrations)

This is ELLA. She is six years old. She lives at the Local Hotel. She has a nanny called Manny. He has tattoos for sleeves and he might go in with some guys to buy a grilled cheese truck. Sometimes Ella weaves purses out of Ziploc bags and reclaimed twine. (She is artsy of course.) She has a dog named Stacie and a fish named Rasta and a scooter which is important for getting everywhere she needs to be. Altogether she has been to 62 events including that Hillary Clinton fundraiser. She is NEVER bored. If Ella and Kay Thompson’s Eloise got together for a play date, they would have a very good time indeed.

     It’s been a long time since I have read the children’s’ book Eloise.  All I remember is that it is about a little girl who lives in a hotel.  Ella by Mallory Kasdan is a take-off of that classic book, adored by parents and children alike.
            Ella is a worldly little girl who lives at The Local Hotel.  It is populated by a variety of colorful characters.  The cast of characters includes bell captains who wear skinny jeans, and Maverick, a bouncer from the rooftop bar.  Ella has a nanny since her mother is an actress that communicates with Ella by computer.  The nanny, a man, has tattoos and wants to buy a grilled cheese truck.  He also drinks beer and watches movies in his pajamas with Ella.  The hotel is a hipsters’ paradise, complete with photo shoots by the pool and a rooftop bar (where Ella helps by muddling the mint).
            Clearly, this book is not meant for children.  It seems geared to young adults who read Eloise as children and have fond memories of it.  I am not sure that children would be interested in the book since it has no discernible plot and a barely there philosophical point of being a small part in a larger universe.  Adults would enjoy the book much more as it really is a parody of the life of Eloise.  It is definitely not for those with a traditional mindset.
            The illustrations are lovely, but I would pass on this one as a book for children.  Your local young adult would enjoy it more.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Regina

Friday, July 17, 2015

When You Leave by Monica Ropal

Cass is positive that the people she cares about most will eventually leave her. Her father is gone, her mother doesn’t notice Cass exists, and her best friend’s battle with cancer was too close of a call. So when she begins her year at a wealthy new private school, Cass’s plan is to suffer through it in anonymity.

However, when her cute locker neighbor, Cooper, shows an undeniable attraction toward Cass, keeping him at a safe distance isn’t easy. Even though her Frogtown skater world and his do-gooder preppy one are so different, Cass and Cooper somehow mesh. And once Cass lets her guard down, Cooper is mysteriously murdered—thus proving her original theory.

When Cass’s close friend is suspected as the killer, she isn’t sure who she can trust anymore. Between investigating Cooper’s murder and trying to understand what she really meant to him, will Cass even find what she is looking for?

Monica Ropal’s tension-filled and emotionally-charged YA debut explores the issues of an outsider looking in, and her desperation to find the impossible answers. Why do people leave? And who will be next? 

     When I started reading about “Cass” I instantly liked her and I could feel myself in her shoes and having to deal with the situations she was dealing with and having to live her life. I would feel like everyone I loved was leaving too if I was having to deal with my parents divorcing and everyone else I know going through their own situations as well. There were times when I was reading When You Leave that I thought “Cass” was just feeling sorry for herself and that she seemed more like a spoiled brat than someone who just had trust issues. I was really happy and excited that “Cass” was able to start trusting someone again; I felt just as excited and nervous as I can imagine she felt. I felt like “Cass” was a much stronger person than I could have been despite her circumstances.  

     I really liked the way Ms. Ropal wrote this book, I feel like she made the story flow from one chapter to another. I didn’t have a hard time reading or following along with this great story. I think this will be a wonderful read for many teenagers regardless if you’re male/female. I think it’s wonderful that this book isn’t just a young adult genre book, but it could be filed under mystery/suspense. I give When You Leave and Ms. Ropal a “9.”

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Tiffany

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Wicked (Something Red #2) by Douglas Nicholas

The mesmerizing and highly anticipated sequel to Something Red transports readers to the harsh and enchanting world of thirteenth-century England, where a group of unlikely heroes battles an ancient evil.

In the critically acclaimed historical fantasy Something Red, the young warrior Hob, his mentor Jack, the mystical Irish queen Molly, and her powerful granddaughter Nemain travelled far and wide, battling shapeshifters, sorceresses, warrior monks, and otherworldly knights. Now, a new type of evil has come to reside in a castle by the chilly waters of the North Sea. Men disappear and are found as horribly wizened corpses. Warriors ride out and return under a terrible spell. Only Molly, with her healing powers, can save the people from a malevolent nobleman and his beautiful, wicked wife. As all are drawn into battle, the young Hob and his adopted family must vanquish the dark powers before they themselves are defeated.

There is nothing like a medieval road trip!  In The Wicked, Douglas Nicholas’ second book in the series that began with Something Red, a band of travelers once again encounters a malevolent force in the European woods.  Through a combination of smarts, sorcery, and teamwork, will they be able to defeat the evil that is threatening them?
            The same cast of characters from Something Red is present in The Wicked, and it really helped that I had read that book first.  Molly, a practitioner of the ancient ways, her granddaughter Nemain, her paramour Jack, and the young Hob all travel together.  They serve as musicians and Molly is a naturalist and healer.  On this trip, they make their way to Castle Blanchefontaine where they meet the friends that they helped save in the first book.  While speaking to Sir Jehan, they are introduced to Sir Odinell, a local landowner.  A new neighboring lord, whose soldiers seem odd and who is causing difficulty for Sir Odinell, has troubled him.  Molly agrees to look into the problem, and what she finds pits her and her friends against a new, otherworldly evil force. 
            I enjoyed this book much more than Something Red.  First, knowing the general setting and the “rules” of this medieval world helped.  I was not surprised that the travelers spent so much time on the road, and I enjoyed the lyrical descriptions of the natural world.  I was also able to enjoy the characters more this time around.  I felt like they were old friends, and it was easier for me to follow their personalities and their gifts this time around.  Even the supporting characters were, in some cases, people who were in Something Red, and the continuity made for a good reading experience for me.
            I found the plot of this second book less tedious than the first book.  I daresay, I enjoyed this one.  There were surprises, suspense, and growth in the characters.  Having said that, I am not sure what my experience would have been had I not read the first book in the series.  The events in that book are referred to in this one, and I think you would miss a lot if you did not read Something Red.  There is a third book in the series that I am looking forward to reading.  There seems to be prophecy to fulfill!
            Recommended to people who like medieval, mystical settings.  Thumbs up from me!
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an  honest review. Regina