Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Christmas in Good Hope by Cindy Kirk

25770647Christmas in Good Hope by Cindy Kirk is designed to be an entertainment for the holidays in the author’s range of contemporary romance. The first in the Good Hope series, and set in the pleasant small town of Good Hope, Wisconsin, it is the story of the four Bloom sisters who are pining for something deeper than their beautiful selves. There, however, is a hitch. Good Hope is a small town, and opportunities for new love seem few and far between.

Amaryllis (Ami), Fin, Prim, and Marigold have lost their mother, Sarah Bloom, three years earlier. And with the passing away of one member, Ami was invited to join the Women’s Events League for a probationary period of 60 days. And for this group of women their biggest problem is Beckett Cross whom one member described as “Mr. Grumpy Pants.” He had refused to allow his home to be part of the annual Victorian Tour of Homes. As Ami’s Bloom Bake Shop is located next to Beck’s cafĂ©, her first assignment as a Cherrie was to him to open his home to the tour.

Though Ami and Beck have acted neighborly, they are not close as everyone else suspected. She was shocked by the insinuations and the suspicions that something is going on between them. Beck was once a trial attorney and no one in Good Hope knows about his past and why he quit. And as Ami follows on with the assignment, the two find increasingly getting closer to each other. But the story is not without its twists and turns. Author Cindy Kirk scripted a marvelous story that will warm the heart as love blooms again with the Bloom sisters.


Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Burned Bridges of Ward, Nebraska by Eileen Curtright

Book Cover ImageThe Burned Bridges of Ward, Nebraska by Eileen Curtright is a humorous take on life, love, parenting, and domestic life and follows a single mom, microbiologist Rebecca Meer, who is a partner in the local fertility clinic. As someone who has survived life as a single parent, there’s nothing Rebecca can’t handle. Or so she thought. But once things started spiraling out of control, there little she could do.

The floodgate opened with her partner Dr. Thad Sorensons. His destructive behavior is a major cause of concern as it could ruin their business. Her 10-year-old fifth-grade son Mitchell gets a new teacher in the form of her ex-boyfriend Kevin Holts. Rebecca can’t understand why in the world would Kevin return to Ward after starting such a successful tech business in California, and what prompted Mitchell’s principal Calvin Chester to engage him. Mitchell is expelled from the school on flimsy grounds, and Rebecca messed up the annual food drive that her sister entrusted her.

Even worse, she is prone to making poor romantic decisions that will result in embarrassing outcomes. Full of interesting and well-conceived characters, The Burned Bridges of Ward, Nebraska by Eileen Curtright is the story of a woman who wants to live a well-constructed life but makes a mess of everything. It is an engrossing read, and you will find much delight in it from start to finish if what you want is a story that is full of social commentary but sparkling with wit and energy.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Short Drop by Matthew FitzSimmons

25789569Matthew Fitzsimmons’ debut novel, The Short Drop, is a stunning and gripping political mystery thriller which centres over the disappearance of Suzanne Lombard, the 14-year-old daughter of U.S. Senator Benjamin Lombard, almost ten years ago. The search for the missing teenager fails to yield any result. Beatrice Arnold, the last person to see her, couldn’t provide any useful lead. No one ever came forward to claim the 10-million-dollar reward offered by her family and friends. Davy Oskenberg, the first and best suspect in the case, a long-haul trucker with a history of domestic violence, was cleared by the FBI but not before he lost his job and received several death threats. It was a frustrating dead end in a case of dead ends.

Through the years, Suzanne’s disappearance has remained an enduring American mystery. With the tenth anniversary of her disappearance looming, her childhood friend Gibson Vaughn is persuaded to look for her with the sudden reappearance of a faceless chatroom friend of Suzanne. Gibson is not only a disgraced computer hacker but a man haunted by the past. While still in high school, he hacked into Senator Benjamin Lombard’s site, which ultimately proved very costly for his family. Suzanne’s father, Benjamin, is now the Vice President and he’s running for the presidency. The stakes are high.

Assisted by an ex-CIA officer and a former police detective, Gibson has to steer cautiously through the treacherous paths of political intrigue, a hired killer, and a web of deceit if he is to ever connect the dots and find Suzanne. The Short Drop by Matthew Fitzsimmons is a real page-turner, skilfully plotted with an ending that will satisfy many thriller lovers. For a first-time author, Matthew Fitzsimmons has done a wonderful job in almost all departments. What really got me into the book was the way he builds up the tempo, and an opening that really arouses one’s curiosity. I strongly recommend the book and look forward to reading many more of Matthew Fitzsimmons’ novels.


Monday, October 19, 2015


25010281The Crossing is what every fan of author Michael Connelly wants – to see his two most formidable characters together again. If memory serves me right, it was The Brass Verdict (2008) which brought Mickey Haller, the Lincoln Lawyer, and LAPD Detective Harry Bosch together. It was followed up with The Reversal (2010) as defense attorney Mickey Haller changes sides to prosecute the high-profile retrial of a child murderer, with LAPD Detective Bosch as lead investigator. In The Crossing, the two teams yet again but Harry Bosch is no longer a detective of LAPD, rather he is living perilously closer to the fringe side of the law.

Harry Bosch had worked almost all his adult life pulling up crime suspects and putting them behind bar until his suspension resulted in early retirement. His half-brother Mickey Haller, who is a defense attorney, worked relentlessly to get crime suspects freed. It’s not difficult to understand that they don’t see eye to eye. But when Mickey Haller’s investigator Dennis “Cisco” Wojciechowski is put out of action by a hit-and-run incident, he approaches Bosch to find evidences to back up the claim of his client Da’Quan "DQ" Foster against whom the LAPD has watertight evidence. DQ has been accused of the murder of Lexi Parks in her home.

His foray into the other side of the law, the premise of which inspired the title of the book, though initially marked by reluctance and guilt, soon opened his eyes. With the help of his former LAPD partner, Lucia Soto, Bosch uncovered a well-connected and thriving racket of prostitution and pornography, and cops gone rogue. As the plot thickens, it builds up to a crescendo as the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle fall into place. The Crossing by Michael Connelly has everything that you’d expect from the master storyteller. What makes this new Bosch novel different from the earlier ones is the difficult “crossing” that he has to make, the judgment that determines his decision and actions not as a cop but as a person outside of the law. Riveting and mesmerizing from start to finish, The Crossing opens a new chapter for Harry Bosch as well as author Michael Connelly.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Apricot Kisses by Claudia Winter

26859349Hanna Philip is restaurant critic from Berlin, and her latest review of a restaurant in a peaceful village tucked away in the apricot grove of Tuscan in Italy set off a chain of events which transformed her life. The owner of Tre Camini restaurant, Giuseppa Camini, dies of a fatal heart attack after reading the disparaging and contemptuous review. When Camini’s grandson Fabrizio Camini filed a lawsuit accusing Hanna and the magazine she works for of causing the death of his grandmother, it is left to Hanna to convince him to drop the case or she will be left without a job. Reluctantly Hanna set off and soon the half-hearted steps turned into a wholehearted adventure of a lifetime, full of love and hope.

What immediately attracts one to the story and the setting is the beautiful way in which the fictional village of Montesimo in Italy is portrayed. Claudia Winter leaves nothing to chance and her vivid imagery and description of the place makes you want to go there on a vacation. The description of the apricot fields, the sunrises and sunsets makes the place come alive in your mind. This fictional village is representative of all the little Italian villages where one finds the hope that everyone yearns for in our hearts. Hanna’s character is also finely drawn without holding anything back. She’s downright clumsy and unlucky, and worst suffers from kleptomania.

The story is written in alternating chapters from the perspective of Hanna Philip and Fabrizio which enables the reader to gain more insights about the two main characters. Readers will enjoy the drama, complications and the flowering romance between Hanna and Fabrizio. You will be moved to tears as Apricot Kisses by Claudia Winter is a book that goes to the heart and stays there. Claudia Winter’s protagonists are characters with endearing weaknesses but formed with the ability to outgrow in the course of their stories. Hanna and Fabrizio’s story is a lesson about life and love, and how to go about it. You can’t always take yourself too seriously. Sometimes you need to go with the flow of life. Open your hearts, close your eyes, raise your arms and you’ll grow wings to fly. A most delightful and charming book, I strongly recommend Apricot Kisses by Claudia Winter if you have a heart for romance and adventure.



21104828House – the name conjures many different things to many different people. And in my readings I have come across quite a number of books where houses are pivotal to the overall scheme of things. While the house may not actually figure in the title, many readers may recollect that in Gone With the Wind it was central to the story. You can feel their heartbeat as if they are living creatures. In The Lake House by Kate Morton, the house where the characters dwell play as much important role as the characters themselves.

The story begins in 1933 with a couple named Eleanor and Anthony Edavane, living in Cornwall in a house called Loeanneth with their three daughters Deborah, Alice and Clemmie and their 11 month old son, Theo, along with grandmother Constance and several other people. Theirs was a happy and contented family, and nothing seemed to disturb their peaceful and tranquil life until a midsummer eve party throws everything out of gear. Nothing the Edavanes did could undo what happened. Broken and shattered, leaving the lake house for good, the family moved to London where the girls grew up.

Fast forward seventy years later to 2003, and we have detective Sadie Sparrow of the Metropolitan Police, with strong views and a no-nonsense attitude, who is forced to go on leave while handling a case involving a grandmother, mother and a supposedly abandoned child. Sadie visited her grandfather Bertie in Cornwall, and it was during her stay at Cornwall that she stumbled on a dilapidated Loeanneth, and learned of how it came to be abandoned after an infant went missing. With nothing else to occupy her, Sadie started investigating into the disappearance of Theo many years earlier. One of Theo’s sisters, Alice, now a septuagenarian, and a writer of mystery books, seems to know more than she is willing to tell. Sadie must unearth the secrets that kept Theo’s disappearance a mystery for over seventy long years.

In The Lake House by Kate Morton, there are different threads which the author brilliantly knitted together. The case which leads to her disciplinary leave, and thereby the visit to Cornwall, was also superbly resolved. Author Kate Morton also filled in with flashbacks to more than twenty years before the beginning of the story which gives us an idea about the characters and their background. The nail-biting suspense, twists and fine storytelling will keep you late into the night, refusing to let go until you uncover the family secrets that plagued the lake house, Loeanneth, and its owners for over seventy years. Kate Morton is as brilliant as ever, and I’d rate The Lake House as one of her best works to date, and definitely one of my best reads of 2015.



24875398I have been immensely fascinated by The Dogs of War, The Fourth Protocol, The Kill List and The Day of the Jackal, all written by Frederick Forsyth. To this day, The Day of the Jackal remains one of my all-time favorite political spy thrillers and Frederick Forsyth one of my favorite authors. His latest offering, The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue, is a spellbinding compilation of autobiographical vignettes, and is as entertaining as any other Frederick Forsyth book.

In this sixty-chapter memoir, British author Forsyth tells the most thrilling experiences of his life from his early childhood to the present day. Beginning with the first chapter Whispered Words to the last, Dream Come True, Forsyth, the master-storyteller that he is, gives a compelling account of his life which is as riveting and enthralling as his fictional works. His stint with the Royal Air Force, Reuters and BBC, and his life as the author of bestselling spy thrillers are well documented. What makes The Outsider such an exciting read is the surprises that Forsyth strewn all over the book.

Forsyth reveals that it was not until he was thirty-one that he got the crazy idea to write in order to pay off his debts. That was the time he was home from Africa, and stony-broke as usual, with no job and no chance of one. And Forsyth claims that he almost started the Third World War. The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue by Frederick Forsyth not only gives insights into the person behind the number one bestsellers of fourteen books, but also gives panoramic views of the political landscapes and social turmoil which he witnessed as a journalist, RAF pilot and author. If you love a good book, well-written and compelling from start to finish, you won’t want to miss this gripping memoir.



25387351Sebastian Rudd is inconceivably poles apart from the other central characters in John Grisham’s novels. He is impatient, contemptuous and dangerous but he’s also smart and resolute – someone you’ll easily root for. Or for that matter, he's someone you’ll instantly find repulsive. He’s divorced, with negligible parenting concerns for his young son, except that occasional visits. Yet, he has strong concerns veering toward madness for the cause of justice, and most of his clients are people with cases the average lawyers would hesitate to touch. With a bodyguard who bundles up as his driver, bodyguard and all-in-one, Sebastian Rudd, the rogue lawyer in Grisham’s latest thriller is unlike anything you have read before.

Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham follows Sebastian Rudd’s legal battles as he works out of a van after his office was bombed. Our legal ace has a lot on his hands as he battles for others as well as himself. One of the cases involved the molestation and drowning of two little girls. The accused Gardy was once a member of a satanic cult with a history of sexual perversion. With this fact known to the prosecution, Sebastian has much work to do. There’s also a case involving a crime lord who killed a judge and is facing death row, and a retired homeowner who opens fire on a SWAT team. Sebastian is also confronted with the daunting prospect of losing his visitation rights with his young son as his ex-wife is mounting a legal challenge to cancel it.

When John Grisham spins his brand of fascinating legal thriller which is a cocktail of a swiftly paced thriller, twisted tales and legal rudiments, you are in for an exciting ride. There’s the excitement and the huge anticipation. But Rogue Lawyer fails to meet my expectation. Though a huge, huge fan of the author, and someone who really wanted a massive blockbuster of read, this is more like Sycamore Row and a notch of an improvement upon Gray Mountain. Having said that, let me make it clear my appetite for Grisham’s legal thrillers will never wane. I largely enjoyed the book but it is nowhere near the intensity and appeal of A Time to Kill. The character development, pointedly that of Sebastian Rudd, was polished and finely done. And I really enjoyed the first-person narrative. Though the different stories, or rather the different cases, were all tied in together at the end, the climax was a bit flat and rather disappointing. Yet, I’d try out a John Grisham thriller any day than any other book for the simple fact that he's the best out there.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Daughter of Sand and Stone by Libbie Hawker

25755194Daughter of Sand and Stone by Libbie Hawker is a historical romance novel that follows the life of Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra and Empress of the East in the 3rd century AD, as she defies her family’s expectations, fights to gain control of both her own life and the throne, and challenges the dominance of the Roman Empire. Strong-willed and courageous, Zenobia was considered a woman who doesn’t know her place as she was determined to shape her destiny on her own terms, this novel is an epic story of a young woman who breaks free of the shackles and rose to become Empress of the East.

The youngest of the three daughters of the great chief, the Ras, Amr Ibn Zarib, affectionately called Zabbai by the citizens of Palmyra, and his wife Berenike, Zenobia’s two siblings are Nafsha, the eldest, and Zabibah, second born. Her father is a powerful chief, second only to the Governor but for the Amlaqi tribe, Zabbai is the only authority. His words are as powerful as his actions. Zenobia’s sisters are married but living with her parents as their husbands are waging war. At seventeen, Zenobia is considered too old to be unmarried though eight suitors have sought her hand in marriage during the past two years, and her father would have been proud to call any of them son-in-law. Zenobia has more important things in mind.

In Daughter of Sand and Stone, author Libbie Hawker painted a sweeping picture of the land, the people and the strength of character of its main protagonist Zenobia. The story is atmospheric. The book makes for a gripping read. Captivating yet tragic, it is the story of how a young woman driven by a strong desire established herself as the ruler of her people against all odds. A romantic at heart yet someone not easily swayed, her towering presence and Libbie Hawker’s powerful narrative combined well to bring Zenobia’s character to life.