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Review: The Stranger by Harlan Coben

[ 5 ] June 11, 2015

the stranger book coverReviewed by Melanie Kline

You are approached by a stranger – it can happen anywhere, any time – and suddenly life as you know it is no longer the same. The words he whispers into your ear – brief and to the point – somehow hit a nerve, ring true and bring life to a screeching halt. You don’t know how he knows this information – or why he has chosen to share it now – but you do know that nothing will ever be the same for you again. Welcome to The Stranger, a psychological thriller of unimaginable secrets, twist and turns, and edge of your seat thrills.

When Adam Price is approached by the stranger, his life, his family and everything relating to his wife, Corrine, is turned upside down. He doesn’t want to believe what he has learned although the information won’t quit nagging at him until he finally confronts her about it. When she refuses to discuss it and subsequently turns up missing, Adam has no choice but to begin to believe the information. He questions the stranger’s motives in telling him what could in effect be the end of his marriage and family. As Adam continues to investigate in order to find Corrine, the plot deepens. The intrigue of the book kept this reader wanting more.

The Stranger is an extremely fast paced book with multiple families all on the edge of falling apart due to the stranger’s appearance and whisper of information that at least one family member wants kept quiet. The story is an extreme page turner and will keep you up late into the night. I was always looking for just one more page, just one more chapter.

I highly recommend The Stranger to any Harlan Coben fans, mystery lovers or anyone looking for a good read in general. If I had to find one fault with the book it would be that I wish that it had been longer and dealt with the way that Adam found Corrine differently. The Stranger is definitely one of the best works I have read in quite some time and I look forward to Mr. Coben’s next novel with baited breath.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Dutton. 

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Giveaway: The Blessings by Elise Juska

[ 8 ] June 11, 2015

the blessings book coverI have 5 copies of The Blessings by Elise Juska to give away!

Open to US residents only

About the book

In the tradition of J. Courtney Sullivan’s Maine and Jennifer Close’s Girls in White Dresses comes a wonderful novel about a tight-knit Irish Catholic clan over the course of twenty years, The Blessings by Elise Juska.

Juska has created a fictional world that is both totally specific and quite universal, and one that will stay with readers long after the last page has turned.

Hailed by Stewart O’Nan as “deft and tender” and as one of the best books of 2014 by the Philadelphia Inquirer,Elise Juska’s The Blessings is an extraordinary novel about an ordinary family. The Blessings rally around one another in times of celebration and those of sorrow, coming together for departures and arrivals, while its members harbor private struggles and moments of personal joy. College student Abby ponders homesickness in her first semester away from her Philadelphia home, while her cousin Stephen commits a petty act of violence that takes a surprising turn, and their aunt Lauren faces a crisis in her storybook marriage she could never have foreseen. Through the lens of one unforgettable family, this beautifully moving novel explores how our families define us and how we shape them in return.

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Blog Tour: Hotel Moscow by Talia Carner

[ 6 ] June 10, 2015

hotel moscow book coverPlease join Talia Carner, author of Hotel Moscow, as she tours the blogosphere with TLC Book Tours!

Reviewed by Sarah McCubbin

When Brooke’s company undergoes some restructuring, she finds herself with some time off while things are rearranged with new staff. Rather than take a vacation to a resort destination, she decides to join up with a friend leading a group of women to Russia after the fall of communism. Collectively, they hope to give Russian women some direction as they attempt to start businesses and support their families. As the small group flies across the Atlantic, they bring with them their American ideals, business savvy and varied experiences that will surely benefit those they’ve come to help. It is this story that Talia Carner shares in her novel, Hotel Moscow.

From the time she sets foot on Russian soil, it becomes immediately obvious to Brooke that life here is different. Each step of their activity is watched, guarded and reported. It becomes apparent that men in high places have ulterior motives for assisting the American women. Bribes and extortion are as common as tipping a waitress. And as they begin to encounter individual Russian women, they begin to realize that American capitalism will have a tough audience in a place where distrust, fraud, and violence are common and expected. Young and old, the women have been oppressed in a system that turns a blind eye to abuse, gives most employment to men and causes an impoverished people to live so desperately that hope has faded.

When Brooke decides to become more than a casual observer, she finds herself in fear for her life. Moscow is falling apart. Civil war is at hand as government activity leads to uprisings all over the city. Rather than turn a blind eye to the corruption keeping women in bondage, she undertakes an investigation to root out the corruption hiding in plain sight. Her story will inspire you. The lives of those she encounters will challenge you.

Surprisingly, much of this story was based on real life experiences from the author’s life when she visited post-communist Russia in 1993. Talia Carner traveled there twice herself to teach women entrepreneurial skills. Much of what she discovered comes out in the pages of this novel. While the story was excellent by itself, knowing that it was based on many real life observations made it that much more powerful. By the end, I felt so deeply thankful for many of the blessings of living in the United States. Ordinary life here is full opportunity unlike so many places. Hotel Moscow is an excellent novel that invites you to see the world a little differently and take a step toward helping someone else live a better life.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Sarah McCubbin is a homeschooling and foster mom in NE Ohio where she resides with her husband and 7 children. In addition to reading great books, she enjoys gardening, traveling and blogging at Living Unboxed.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by HarperCollins Publishers. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Giveaway: Watch the Lady by Elizabeth Fremantle

[ 13 ] June 10, 2015

watch the lady book coverI have 1 signed copy of Watch the Lady by Elizabeth Fremantle to give away!

Open to US residents only

About the book

From “a brilliant new player in the court of royal fiction” (People) and the author of Queen’s Gambit and Sisters of Treason comes the mesmerizing story of Lady Penelope Devereux—the little-known, daring beauty in the Tudor court, who inspired Sir Philip Sidney’s famous sonnets even while she plotted against Queen Elizabeth.

Penelope arrives at Queen Elizabeth’s court where she and her brother, the Earl of Essex, are drawn into the aging Queen’s favor. Penelope, though promised elsewhere, falls in love with Philip Sidney who pours his heartbreak into the now classic sonnet series, Astrophil and Stella. But Penelope is soon married off to a man who loathes her. Never a damsel in distress, she chooses her moment and strikes a deal with her husband: after she gives birth to two sons, she will be free to live as she chooses, with whom she chooses.

Meanwhile the devious politician, Robert Cecil, ever loyal to Elizabeth, has his eye on Penelope and her brother. Although it seems that Essex can do no wrong in the eyes of the Queen, as his influence grows, so his enemies gather. Penelope must draw on all her political savvy to save her brother from his own ballooning ambition and Cecil’s trap, while daring to plan for an event it is treason even to think about.

Smart, meticulously researched, thrilling and romantic, this book is a brilliant standout in its genre.

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Review: Dying Wish by James Raven

[ 3 ] June 9, 2015

dying wish book coverReviewed by Nina Longfield 

A book signing seems an improbable location to spark an investigation that in turn ignites a firestorm of revelations, unearths serial murder, and uncovers heinous secrets, but that is how Dying Wish begins. Set in the south English countryside of the New Forest, James Raven’s latest novel is full of quaint destinations and quirky characters. Yet the forest holds the dark secrets of certain unknown individuals who frequent the supposedly tranquil location.

Nature author Grant Mason is signing books at a village bookshop when pain strikes. A heart attack. His dying wish leads Mason’s assistant to seek Detective Chief Inspector Jeff Temple’s advice. Temple agrees to look into Mason’s strange final request and visits Mason’s home in the New Forest. When Temple is attacked, an investigation begins bringing in Temple’s Hampshire Major Investigations Team. Further examination of Mason’s home explains the man’s desperate final request. If Temple hadn’t known it before, the case at the New Forest shows Temple that people are not always who they appear to be.

This is the second James Raven novel I have read featuring DCI Jeff Temple. Temple continues to intrigue me. He is a complex and well-rounded narrator. Temple has past pains and can be fallible at times, which makes him relatable, but he is also grounded and open to others around him making him likeable. The infrequent sidebar expositions tend to distract the reader momentarily from the main action of the ongoing story, but this also shows how DCI Temple’s mind is always working at many different angles. He is consciously aware of his digressions and pushes himself back to focusing on the task at hand.

I purposefully take my time reading. I want to savor the words and lose myself in the plot getting to know the characters. That went out the window with James Raven’s Dying Wish. I couldn’t put the novel down. I read it in a day. Yet I also savored the story and lost myself within it. I fell right into the rhythm of Dying Wish. The mystery was solid. The crimes were gruesome, yet I continued reading because I wanted to know the who, how, what, why, and when of the story. As I guessed ahead, I wanted to know if I was correct or why not. I wanted to get to the end of the novel to know the mystery yet I enjoyed the story and did not want it to end so quickly. All in all, I found Dying Wish an immersive story that captured and held my attention throughout.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.

Review copy was provided by James Raven.

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Giveaway: The Idea of Love by Patti Callahan

[ 14 ] June 9, 2015

the idea of love book coverI have 1 copy of The Idea of Love by Patti Callahan to give away!

Open to US and Canada residents only

About the book

The Idea of Love is a duplicitous and compelling story of love lost and found in unexpected places and is praised by New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank as “so wonderful I wish I had written it myself…This is a huge winner–no lie!”

A Nicholas Sparks-esque screenwriter lacking inspiration in the wake of his divorce, Blake is desperately in search of a love story beautiful enough to translate into big screen success. Disguising himself as a travel writer, he treks down the east coast to sleepy southern Watersend in search of a love story he can borrow. When he speaks with the young and beautiful Ella Flynn, he’s convinced he has his screenplay: Ella’s beloved husband died saving her life. It’s the perfect love story for his audiences…and it’s also a lie.

Reeling from the shock of her very much alive husband’s affair, Ella is lost. When she speaks to Blake and dismisses him as a stranger she’ll never see again, she creates the life she wants and paints herself as a successful wedding dress designer recovering from her saintly husband’s sacrificial death.

Drawn to each other’s lies and grappling with their flawed understandings of love, Ella and Blake’s chance meeting gradually leads to more encounters and a larger web of deceit. As Blake and Ella bind themselves tighter with the lies they tell, the inevitable unraveling of their stories will end as neither imagined.

Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times bestselling storyteller of eleven books, including The Stories We Tell, Between the Tides, and Driftwood Summer. Patti lives in Mountain Brook, Alabama with her husband and three children, where she is crafting her next story.

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