THE SAD JOURNEY OF AN “INCONVENIENT” WOMAN — A REVIEW

The story begins with a narrator who is talking to an unknown person, probably a psychiatrist whom he keeps addressing as “you” or “Doc,” and these events appear to be occurring at some future point in time.

We then move to the events of August 5, 1962, when Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her sparsely decorated adobe home. She was lying face down, clutching a phone.

In the following pages, we discover that there are time discrepancies; there are concerns about the position of the body and the unlikelihood that someone taking an overdose would be clutching a phone. There is an empty glass that is there…and then not there. A mysterious red diary appears…and then disappears.

Deputy Coroner Ben Fitzgerald is the primary narrator who is frustrated by the apparent cover-up. He is determined to find the answers.

But will his life be at risk as he struggles to learn the truth? Who are the enemies? The Mafia or others unknown? What do the police and even his boss at the Coroner’s office have to hide, and why are they fighting his investigation? What lies and deceptions will trouble him in the days ahead?

From the recovered diary and mysterious tapes, our narrator eventually learns some of what transpired, but will it be too late? And how can he protect his young son?

The Empty Glass was a captivating mix of fact and fiction that left me with more questions than answers. Told in an unusual narrative style that jumped around from the present to the past and then ahead to the future, I had a hard time making sense of it at times. 3.5 stars.

WAITING ON WEDNESDAY — LOVE IN A NUTSHELL — DEC. 7

Welcome to Waiting on Wednesday, our opportunity to spotlight upcoming releases we’re eagerly anticipating.

Hosted by Jill, at Breaking the Spine, you can join in, too.  Just follow the link, share your featured book, and visit lots of other blogs, too.

I’m a fan of this author, and this book looks like the beginning of a new series, with a great new protagonist.  Or maybe it’s a stand-alone treat from Janet Evanovich, who co-authors with Dorien Kelly in Love in a Nutshell.  Coming 1-3-2012.

About the Book:

Number one bestselling author Janet Evanovich teams up with award-winning author Dorien Kelly to deliver a sparkling novel of romantic suspense, small-town antics, secretive sabotage, and lots and lots of beer
Kate Appleton needs a job. Her husband has left her, she’s been fired from her position as a magazine editor, and the only place she wants to go is to her parents’ summer house, The Nutshell, in Keene’s Harbor, Michigan. Kate’s plan is to turn The Nutshell into a Bed and Breakfast. Problem is, she needs cash, and the only job she can land is less than savory.
Matt Culhane wants Kate to spy on his brewery employees. Someone has been sabotaging his company, and Kate is just new enough in town that she can insert herself into Culhane’s business and snoop around for him. If Kate finds the culprit, Matt will pay her a $20,000 bonus. Needless to say, Kate is highly motivated. But several problems present themselves. Kate despises beer. No one seems to trust her. And she is falling hard for her boss.
Can these two smoke out a saboteur, save Kate’s family home, and keep a killer from closing in…all while resisting their undeniable attraction to one another? Filled with humor, heart, and loveable characters, Love in a Nutshell is delicious fun.
***
Excited yet?  I certainly am, and now I’m eager to visit your offering.  Hope you’ll come by here, too.

A FEISTY PROTAGONIST TAKES ON A CORPORATION — A REVIEW

When Angela Joy Palladino and her nine-year-old son return to her hometown of Scotia, West Virginia, she has very mixed feelings. Memories of her flight from this same town ten years before are almost enough to keep her from going there.

But she is desperate. Her past success as an environmental activist has been clouded by a recent media disaster.

What will Angela (A.J.) find when she shows up on her parents’ doorstep? And what recent events will torpedo the job she hoped to begin here? And what lies and secrets will she uncover?

From the very opening pages of this story full of mystery, suspense, and possible danger, the reader is treated to the tough feistiness of A. J., and the awesome strength, intelligence, and openness to life’s possibilities of her disabled son David.

Erin Brockovich’s environmental activism shines throughout the pages, and the fictional elements were captivating and true-to-life. I liked how the story unfolded from the alternate perspectives of the characters, like A. J.; Elizabeth (an attorney); and David. The story revealed itself almost in slow motion at times, creating more suspense, especially toward the end as the danger escalated.

On the other hand, some of the language felt awkward, or like an attempt at down-home humor. For example: “The tug-of-war in my stomach was a tractor pull pitting an eighteen wheeler against a Panzer tank.”

These similes peppered the pages of [ROCK BOTTOM] BY Brockovich, Erin (Author) Vanguard Press (publisher) Hardcover, distracting me at times. Otherwise, this book was incredible, and as the first in a series, it offers an ongoing journey with these characters. Four stars.

THE HIGH COST OF ART

When three people in a farm family are killed in Holcomb, Kansas, Truman Capote (Toby Jones) and (Nelle) Harper Lee (Sandra Bullock) embark upon a journey to delve into the impact of this crime on the people of the village. It is 1959 and Truman has already displayed an extraordinary literary talent; Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Perennial Modern Classics) is about to bring her success as well.

Thus begins this movie, which, like the previous one, Capote, focuses on Truman’s attempts to ingratiate himself enough with the townspeople to earn admittance into their thoughts and feelings.

In the process, Truman Capote becomes so involved with one of the killers, Perry Smith (Daniel Craig), that he almost becomes part of the story.

At the end, after the hangings and after the book has exceeded every expectation, it’s almost as though all of their lives are but an epilogue to the main event.

Narrating at the conclusion, the character Harper Lee comments that, in America, there is no attention paid to the “small” moments in your artistic life; instead, after the success, everyone asks, as only Americans can: “What’s next?”

This comment seemed so poignant, considering that, despite the success that still surrounds To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Perennial Modern Classics), this book was the main event for Harper Lee as well.

The actors left their intriguing marks on the characters, adding a depth and humanity—even on the criminals—and also gave us a peek into the thoughts and feelings of the writers who turned the human moments into art.

While I enjoyed this movie, I was disappointed that Harper Lee was portrayed as a footnote to Truman (or a sidekick), with only the occasional moments that revealed that she might be his moral compass as well. I feel compelled to learn more about her, which is why I am currently reading Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, a portrait written by Charles J. Shields.

The high cost of the writing process was very evident throughout this film. If more of this angst had been portrayed, I would gladly have seen this movie as a five star creation. Instead, I could only grant four stars to Infamous.

WATCH OUT FOR THE SWEET GIRL!

Orphan was a movie that I’d heard about and was hesitant to watch. I’m usually a sucker for the movies about orphans or abused children, and usually these things go hand-in-hand.

From the hype, I knew that this child would be one of those with mental health issues. From the descriptions on the sites, I suspected some kind of psychosis or deep antisocial disorder. But what was revealed as the film leads us down this path of suspense was something I hadn’t suspected. Not once.

The ending was so chilling that I literally couldn’t sleep afterwards. Warning! Do not watch if you want to sleep.

Vera Farmiga is compelling as Kate, the mother, who has suffered depression and a bout with alcoholism after their third child is stillborn. Peter Sarsgaard portrays John, the husband, whom we soon learn has some fidelity issues, thus creating tension between the spouses.

Isabelle Fuhrman, as Esther, steals the spotlight as the disturbed adopted daughter. The other children are very compelling as well, and the movie creates the typical conspiracy of silence between them all, as Esther inspires fear and obedience from them.

When Kate begins to suspect something is very wrong with Esther, she can’t get her husband to even give credence to her concerns. He brushes her off as if she’s nothing. I began to despise him early on for his cluelessness and his inability to see what was staring him in the face.

In the end, though, everyone is a believer. And not to give away the surprises, just be sure to watch closely as the layers of this secret begin to unfold.

I probably would have given this one 4.5 stars, if I could. I deducted a star because, despite the compelling nature of this film, it isn’t one I’ll ever watch again.

Okay, now this is an appropriate Blogoversary moment, don’t you think?  I’m not actually celebrating this blogoversary, since I have too many blogs.

But a few balloons won’t hurt!

A MOTHER’S WORST NIGHTMARE — A Review of “Little Face”

In a nightmarish scenario, new mother Alice Fancourt goes out after her daughter’s birth, leaving her two-week-old infant with her husband, David. Returning two hours later, she swears that the baby in the crib is not her child. Despite how terrified and hysterical she is, her husband insists that she is wrong.

Thus begins a convoluted and complicated investigation, with two police detectives, Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer, finding themselves at odds with one another over what is true and what is not; as they travel their separate paths, following leads, Alice drops hints and clues along the way, leading them into still another case a few years before—the murder of David’s first wife, Laura, which resulted in David and his mother Vivienne having sole custody of David and Laura’s son Felix.

Is there a connection between what happened to Laura and what has now happened to baby Florence? Who is the dark force behind these events, and what can Alice do to convince everyone that her child is missing?

Little Face, by Sophie Hannah, is an exciting, thrilling, psychological suspense novel that compels the reader to keep rapidly turning pages until the questions are answered. Surprising twists and turns along the way had me shaking my head at each point. But what will we finally learn about each of these characters, and what motivations are driving them?

If I could, I would give this book 5+ stars. I am not likely to ever forget this tale.

CRIME AND POLITICS — A Review of “At Risk”

When a Massachusetts state investigator is called home from a training academy in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he is completing a course in forensics, he has to wonder about the timing. But his district attorney boss, Monique Lamont, an attractive, hard-charging woman, has ambitions to become the next governor. And her new crime initiative “At Risk,” with its motto “Any crime, any time” seems more politically motivated than anything else. She insists, however, that she’s been looking for a way to utilize some cutting-edge DNA technology, and by resurrecting an old unsolved Tennessee crime, with the help of investigator Win Garano “Geronimo,” she plans to achieve just that.

But as Garano attempts to delve into the case, he is puzzled by a number of aspects. His assistant is digging through cardboard boxes in the basement of the deceased former detective, with mysterious elements showing up in assorted places. Nothing seems to fit. Meanwhile, back in Cambridge, a violent attack on Monique Lamont ratchets up the mystery another notch. More and more suspense builds as it soon becomes apparent that much more is going on, and finding out who is doing what to whom and why…well, that will be the final question to be answered.

At Risk (Win Garano) was my first Cornwell novel, and I’d have to say that I enjoyed the quick read and the somewhat confusing aspects that became clearer toward the end.

Perhaps everything tidied up a bit much for my taste, but it was definitely a fun read. I would give it four stars; perhaps 4.5.

A MAGICAL JOURNEY — A Review of “Whale Song”

From the talented author Cheryl Kaye Tardif we are given a poignant and haunting tale—a coming-of-age story of a young girl transplanted to an island culture that combined Native mysticism with the beautiful animal world of the whales.

When Sarah Richardson’s family moved from Wyoming to Vancouver Island, she was not happy. Leaving behind a life of familiarity and comfort, including her best friend, she could not imagine ever experiencing joy again. Her parents, however, immerse themselves into their new lives—her mother resumes her art and her father, his marine biology.

But soon enough, she finds herself seamlessly drawn to the island, the ocean, and eventually to a new best friend—Goldie Dixon—and a wise old woman called Nana, who instilled Native Nootka mysticism into her new identity.

Unfortunately, as she begins a new school year, she becomes the victim of racism meted out by another young girl and learns what it’s like to be bullied. In the process, however, she discovers the other girl’s secret abuse by her father, and during a school field trip, when she saves the other girl’s life, they become fast friends.

As life begins to settle into some kind of normalcy, Sarah is happy— she even has experienced her first crush on Adam, a young boy in her class.

But then life takes a tragic turn, as she learns of her mother’s terminal illness. Then in a horrible and devastating moment that dramatically alters all of their lives, something happens in that hospital room; something that Sarah cannot remember—hysterical amnesia, the doctors report. Because her father is the suspect, he is sent to prison for murder…for allegedly turning off his wife’s life support.

Through the horrible aftermath, Sarah clings to Nana’s words: “When wolf walks by her, she will remember.”

What finally emerges, years later, will set them all free.

A powerful tale of mystery, drama, coming-of-age, and Native mysticism, Whale Song: A Novel was like a magical journey…I couldn’t put it down!

NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED — A Review of “One Good Turn”

When a mysterious man driving a Peugeot puts on the brakes to avoid hitting a passenger, he is struck from behind by a blue Honda. This action sets in motion a whole series of events – beginning with Honda Man wielding a bat toward Peugeot driver’s head – which next leads to a bystander’s intervention. The mild-mannered bystander hits the bat-wielding individual with his laptop case.

The lives of these disparate individuals collide in this moment; then they begin to intersect at various points along the way in the upcoming days. As it turns out, the mild-mannered man is a successful mystery writer – Martin Canning – who pens his novels under the name Alex Blake. The man in the Peugeot is “Paul Bradley,” but in actuality, this is an alias. And Honda Man turns out to be one Terence Smith.

Add to the mix a businessman, Graham Hatter, whose dealings are fraudulent; his disenchanted wife Gloria, who is not unhappy when he has an accident in a hotel room with a woman and ends up in ICU, near death; and then toss in the machinations of members of a cleaning/miscellaneous assignments crew called Favors – and you have the makings for a complex suspense tale that draws the attention of the local police – namely Louise Monroe – and a former policeman/private detective named Jackson Brodie.

All are in Edinburgh, where a Festival is going on – and where Julia, Jackson’s girlfriend, is a participant, along with comedian Richard Mott, who also happens to be Martin Canning’s houseguest.

How does each of these characters figure into the overall plot? Who has set in motion the events that will lead to murder, mayhem, and destruction? Rapidly turning pages, hoping to find the answers, I could not get there fast enough.

Just as exciting as Atkinson’s previous and subsequent novels, Case Histories: A Novel and When Will There be Good News? (Import) (UK Hardcover) Atkinson, One Good Turn: A Jolly Murder Mystery leaves the reader wanting more – all the way to the surprising end.

FEARLESS NINA REILLY IS ON THE CASE — A Review of “Show No Fear”

shownofearOne of my favorite heroines—Nina Reilly— has returned, but this time, it is a prequel to the other adventures.

In Show No Fear: A Nina Reilly Novel, we learn about Nina before she became the attorney living in Tahoe and taking on the establishment, among other entities, and saving the day for so many clients.

In the beginning of this novel, Nina is a struggling single parent, attending law school and working as a paralegal for a law firm in Carmel, CA. Her mother, who lives in nearby Pacific Grove, is suffering a terminal and debilitating illness, some of which has worsened at the hands of an unscrupulous medical practitioner.

Seeking justice for her mother, Nina turns the case over to a brilliant attorney in her firm—Remy—who seems to have everything in hand. And then it all seemingly falls apart…The case seems unwinnable; the opposing counsel, who is also trying to gain joint custody of Nina’s child—he is the presumed father—is stalking Nina in his usual intimidating fashion; and Nina’s love life is almost nonexistent. But she does long for another attorney in the firm—Jack.

Amidst all of this, Nina’s drug addicted brother becomes a troubling addition to her load of worries.

When her mother falls—or is pushed—over a cliff, Nina becomes embroiled in the murder investigation.

From this point on, I could not read fast enough to find the answers. Who is the murderer? Is it one of the more obvious suspects, or is a surprise in store for Nina and her friends?

I am convinced you will want to read this intriguing book as well.