Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Silence of the Library

The Silence of the Library (Cat in the Stacks, #5)The Silence of the Library by Miranda James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Librarian Charlie Harris is assisting his friend and Athena Public Library director, Teresa Farmer, with putting on an event featuring authors of mysteries with "intrepid girl detectives" from the middle decades of the 20th century. They are thrilled to discover that one of Charlie's favorites from childhood, Electra Barnes Cartwright, centenarian author of the Veronica Thane series, is not only still alive but living nearby and willing to come speak during their program. Her most ardent fans immediately descend on the town when they hear the news, demanding to meet her. When the editor of the "EBC" fan newsletter is murdered, Charlie and his Maine coon cat, Diesel, begin investigating to help the sheriff's deputy figure out who killed her and why.

I guessed the murderer & motive long before anyone even died, but it was still a fun book to listen to. This is book #5 in the Cat in the Stacks series, but it could almost stand alone, since the interactions with ongoing characters were relatively minimal. The narrator doesn't differentiate a whole lot between voices/accents for most of the characters, yet I had no difficulty knowing who was speaking.

For readers' advisors: story and character doorways are primary. The violence is offscreen and barely mentioned, really. There is no sex or swearing. It's a light, cozy mystery.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

LaCour's Destiny

LaCour's DestinyLaCour's Destiny by Robert Downs
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I received a free eGalley copy of the ARC from NetGalley & the publisher in exchange for my honest review. However, after reading 141 of 238 pages, I just am not liking it very much, so I'm giving up. I think the author needed to do more revisions or have an editor take another, closer look at it before this went to print. There are too many, "Wait, what??" moments for me--and not the good kind, but rather the kind where suddenly the author mentions details out of the blue, or a character leaves the room and a few lines later the main character is talking as though the person has magically reappeared. I can't get a handle on the setting (small town? city?) enough to picture the action, and I find much of the sleuthing Samantha does implausible. Mostly, though, I feel like this is a book that hasn't gelled yet. It could be good with a lot more work, but it's not ready for prime-time. I'll probably skip ahead to the end to see who the killer turns out to be, but I have too many other things on my To Read list to use up any more of my rare free time finishing this book. Sorry, Mr. Downs!

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Friday, February 12, 2016

Secret Sisters

Secret SistersSecret Sisters by Jayne Ann Krentz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Three and a half stars, but I'll round up.

When Madeline was twelve and enjoying a sleepover with her best friend, Daphne, a guest at her grandmother's hotel tried to rape and kill her. Only five people knew what happened to the attacker...or so they thought. Nearly two decades later, Madeline, now the owner of the hotel chain, returns to the island after her grandmother's death only to discover that the truth might not have stayed buried. She enlists the help of her chief of security, Jack, and his brother, Abe, to uncover who is behind the recent spate of violence and stop it from spreading any further. It's not the reunion either would have chosen, but Madeline and Daphne are delighted to be together again and are determined to keep the past from destroying the present. If they succeed, perhaps these sisters-at-heart might one day become sisters-in-law.

Fast-paced, exciting plot. Plenty of villains to go around. Likeable main characters but not much real character development. Very enjoyable read.

For readers' advisors: story doorway is primary. Some swearing that might bother the most sensitive. Violence isn't explicitly described & the sex scene is relatively short and not terribly detailed either.

I read an eGalley ARC courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

The 5 Love Languages Military Edition: The Secret to Love That Lasts

The 5 Love Languages Military Edition: The Secret to Love That LastsThe 5 Love Languages Military Edition: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have heard good things about the 5 Love Languages series of books for years, but I had not read any of them until I received this version at a post-deployment yellow ribbon workshop. I now believe ALL military couples should read this edition, and everyone else should read at least one of the others. It would transform marriage in this country and around the world if we all learned to identify and speak the primary (and secondary) love languages of our spouses. Likewise, applying the same principles to our children, parents, extended family, friends, coworkers, and so on would radically improve all types of relationships, making this world a far happier, kinder, better place to live.

I wish I had been introduced to this book before my husband was deployed so that we could have tried out some of the strategies and activities Dr. Chapman suggested as accommodations during periods of separation. However, using the quiz at the end of the book really helped me discover what love languages speak the most strongly to me, and analyzing myself allowed me to identify and understand past interactions, both positive and negative. Now it's my husband's turn to read the book, and I'm excited to practice being "multilingual"!

Other reviewers have noted the prevalence of examples mentioning Christian couples, but the love languages are not specific to one religion or culture. The authors have just had a whole lot of Christian clients over the past few decades, particularly among their military clientele.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Forgetting Time

The Forgetting TimeThe Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Janie's son Noah is an unusual child. He is four years old and refuses to bathe. Not just the usual temper tantrums either, but full-fledged terror-filled panic attacks. She does her best to keep him clean with hand sanitizer and diaper wipes, but that only goes so far. Then his preschool/daycare calls her in to let her know they are going to call child protective services because of some of the stories he's been telling them, and she has to explain that ever since he learned to talk, he's told stories of places he's never been, people he's never known, and about things he's never seen. Every night, like clockwork, her sweet boy has nightmares where he begs and pleads to "go home" and wants to be with his "other mother."

Janie is exhausted, frustrated, broke, and in despair. She has taken Noah to an endless series of doctors and psychiatrists, and the only diagnosis they can come up with is schizophrenia. In desperation, she contacts a doctor she would otherwise consider a loony-tunes quack, Dr. Jerome Anderson, whose life's work has been to document cases of children remembering past lives and past traumas. Janie doesn't know it, but Dr. Anderson has been diagnosed with aphasia--he's losing the ability to speak and remember words--and he needs one last case in order to publish his book before he's too far gone to write. Or care.

They embark on a journey that upends Janie's worldview and alters the lives of two families.

It took me a couple of chapters to really get into the story and figure out what was going on, but once I did, I was hooked. Haunted, really, and not in the "scary-ghost" sense of the word, but in the "can't-stop-thinking-about-it-long-after-lunch-breaks-ended" sort of way. Reincarnation isn't a new idea, but this novel had me thinking about the possibility in an entirely new light. Hoping, in fact, that it might be true, and that these reborn souls might be able to bring peace to themselves and their previous families if we would just listen and help reunite them.

The intense, palpable pain and despair felt by each and every character broke my heart--even the killer's. I'm amazed that Ms. Guskin managed to make the book feel ultimately hopeful, given all that anguish and loss. It struck me that not a single character seemed to have a support network of any type--no really close friends, family, or faith community to rely on in any way. I think that fact is crucial to the story; if any one person had been less lonely, isolated, or in the depths of despair, I think the novel would have collapsed or at least gone in a different direction.

For readers' advisors: character doorway is primary, story secondary.  There are some crude situations and language, including some profanity and teen drug use. There is also love that survives anything, even death.

My thanks to for the free advanced reading copy (ARC) in exchange for my honest review.

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