Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Tear Me Apart by J.T. Ellison (Book Review)

Title: Tear Me Apart
Author: J.T. Ellison
Publication: Mira Books, Trade Paperback, September 2018 (ebook also available)
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Giveaway:  I have one copy to give away to US or Canadian readers. Please leave an email by 9/7/18 if you are interested!
Plot: The follow-up to her critically acclaimed Lie to Me, J.T. Ellison’s Tear Me Apart is the powerful story of a mother willing to do anything to protect her daughter even as their carefully constructed world unravels around them.

One moment will change their lives forever…

Competitive skier Mindy Wright is a superstar in the making until a spectacular downhill crash threatens not just her racing career but her life. During surgery, doctors discover she’s suffering from a severe form of leukemia, and a stem cell transplant is her only hope. But when her parents are tested, a frightening truth emerges. Mindy is not their daughter.

Who knows the answers?

The race to save Mindy’s life means unraveling years of lies. Was she accidentally switched at birth or is there something more sinister at play? The search for the truth will tear a family apart…and someone is going to deadly extremes to protect the family’s deepest secrets.

Moving through time, Tear Me Apart examines the impact layer after layer of lies and betrayal has on two families, the secrets they guard, and the desperate fight to hide the darkness within.

Audience: Readers who don’t mind staying up late!

My Impressions: I could not put down this thriller and finished it about 2 am! It starts with an attractive young skier bound for the Olympics who instead has a bad fall – a situation we have all seen and sympathized with – and then it takes off as years of lies are exposed, bit by bit, moving from the past to the present and back again. I especially liked the talented and empathetic aunt (surprise!), Juliet, who is devoted to her niece, Mindy, but still clearsighted about the issues surrounding her medical situation. I did not find the segments from the past to be very convincing; moreover, certain aspects of the plot were signposted to the reader and there were holes that a self-respecting detective should have investigated, which lessened the impact of the last 20% of the book. Despite these flaws, this was an enjoyable if not entirely convincing read by an author who knows how to deliver suspense, and it was perfect for the last few weeks of summer!  I had read and reviewed Lie to Me by this author but I liked this much better.
Purchase Links: Barnes & Noble * IndieBound * AmazonBooks-A-Million

Source: I was provided a copy of this book by Mira Books and TLC Book Tours for review purposes. You can visit other stops on the tour and read the reviews by clicking below:

Monday, August 27th: @prose_and_palate
Monday, August 27th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, August 28th: Bewitched Bookworms
Thursday, August 30th: Palmer’s Page Turners
Friday, August 31st: Jathan & Heather
Monday, September 3rd: Books & Bindings
Tuesday, September 4th: Moonlight Rendezvous
Wednesday, September 5th: @katyslibrary
Thursday, September 6th: The Book Diva’s Reads
Friday, September 7th: Becky on Books
Monday, September 10th: Novel Gossip
Tuesday, September 11th: 5 Minutes for Books
Wednesday, September 12th: Midwest Ladies Who Lit
Wednesday, September 12th; @girlwithnoselfie
Thursday, September 13th: @basicbsguide
Friday, September 14th: Girl Who Reads
Monday, September 17th: Helen’s Book Blog
Monday, September 17th: @bookishconnoisseur
Tuesday, September 18th: Thoughts on This ‘n That
Wednesday, September 19th: @bookenetics
Thursday, September 20th: Why Girls Are Weird
Friday, September 21st: Cheryl’s Book Nook
Monday, September 24th: @hollyslittlebookreviews
Tuesday, September 25th: Thoughts from a Highly Caffeinated Mind
Wednesday, September 26th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, September 27th: A Bookworm’s World
Friday, September 28th: Book Reviews and More by Kathy

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Fallen by David Baldacci (Book Review)

Title: The Fallen: Memory Man #4
Author: David Baldacci
Publication: Hachette Books, hardcover, April 2018
Genre: Suspense
Plot: FBI detective, Amos Decker, has survived many challenges – from the football injury that derailed his NFL career, leaving him with the perfect recall that has helped his investigative skills, to the terrible night he came home and found his wife and daughter had been murdered. He uses work to forget his past so is not able to relax when his FBI partner Alex Jamison drags him along on a vacation to visit her sister’s family on the Pennsylvania-Ohio border. Like any self-respecting hero of a thriller, he senses something wrong in the house next door and breaks down the door, discovering two dead bodies. This is the first but not the last mystery that Amos and Alex find in Baronville, PA, and because Amos is driven to solve murders and he and Alex excel at fitting pieces of crime together like a puzzle, they go full speed ahead even when they learn Alex’s brother-in-law is somehow part of the former mill town’s deadly secrets.  This is another bestseller from a talented and prolific novelist.

Audience: Fans of thrillers, those who like angst-driven protagonists

My Impressions: Why do I enjoy David Baldacci’s books so much? He combines suspense, intricate plots that alternate between plausible and incredible, fast-paced action, quirky characters, and unexpected humor. Here, Alex is both fond of and exasperated by her partner, whose analytical skills are boundless but who doesn’t always remember to keep her in the loop, often plunging into danger alone:

Before they could answer [Baron] simply walked from the room.
Jamison looked over at Decker. “Wow, just walking out like that. Who does that remind you of?”
He looked at her. “Who?”
Her only response was an exaggerated eye roll.

Amos has lost his ability to feel emotions other than revenge so he never gets Alex’s humor but in this book he connects with Alex’s niece, who reminds him of his deceased daughter, and there are some touching scenes with her. I think human contact is helping Amos begin to recover from his tragedy.

I was hoping to get my oldest nephew hooked on Baldacci this summer and got The Camel Club for him from the library but I am not sure he has tried it yet. For new Baldacci fans, I recommend starting with that one or Split Second: The Camel Club begins a series about a motley collection of friends who are determined to investigate a CIA conspiracy while Split Second focuses on two discredited Secret Service agents who turn into a powerful force when they begin working together.

Source: I got this book from the Boston Public Library. The BPL does not usually receive new books quickly so I have been waiting quite a while to get to the top of the reserve list. In addition, Baldacci is very popular. Some libraries (but not this one) pencil in the date the book arrives so occasionally I can tell I am the first or close to the first to receive the book, which is always fun.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Day of the Dead by Nicci French (Book Review)

Title: Day of the Dead
Author: Nicci French
Publication: William Morrow, trade paperback, July 2018
Genre: Suspense
Plot: For years, dangerous criminal Dean Reeve has been playing mind games with psychologist Frieda Klein (and perhaps vice-versa), and to save her family and friends from further suffering she has gone off the grid.  At the same time, the police try to solve three seemingly unrelated murders, and Lola, a procrastinating university student (is there any other kind?), attempts to write an academic paper on Frieda and also comes into dangerous contact with Reeve.  However, when Frieda realizes Reeve is using murder to send her a deadlymessage, she realizes she must come out of hiding to confront him, regardless of the cost of this showdown to herself. 

Audience: Fans of psychological suspense who enjoy authors such as Tana French, Val McDermid, and Ruth Ware

My Impressions:  This is a compelling read, with vivid characters, unexpected twists, and a thrilling conclusion!   I am not sure why I had never previously read anything by Nicci French but I am glad this was recommended to me.  Frieda Klein is a fascinating protagonist, with layers of complexity only hinted at in this book, and it is quite a change to read about a heroine close to my own age.    I did not realize until I started that this was the eighth and final book in the series (you know I don’t like to read books out of order and I don't like you to do either, gentle reader) so I would suggest going back to start with Blue Monday (which I just placed on hold at the library).  I enjoyed this and look forward to more quality time with Frieda Klein.

Source: I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher and TLC Book Tours for review purposes.  Please visit other stops on the tour and read the reviews by clicking below:
Tuesday, July 24th: A Book a Week
Wednesday, July 25th: Reading Reality
Tuesday, July 31st: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, August 1st: The Book Diva’s Reads
Tuesday, August 7th: Into the Hall of Books
Wednesday, August 8th: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Thursday, August 9th: Iwriteinbooks’s blog
Thursday, August 9th: A Bookworm’s World
Friday, August 10th: Lit.Wit.Wine.Dine.
Monday, August 13th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Betsy-Tacy Convention, Day 3

All too soon, it was Sunday morning.  Josephine had allowed us to sleep a little later but everyone had started gathering in the lobby. Beyond Domestic Science: Recipes from Betsy-Tacy, and some were mainlining caffeine.  This was a morning that showcased the NewBetsys, including Barb Fecteau as Mistress of Ceremonies!  were finally picking up their soon-to-be treasured copy of the new Betsy-Tacy cookbook.

Josephine Wolff and her mother, Perri Klass (both NewBetsys currently living in New York State), began the morning with a presentation entitled: “Stories About Girls Who Want Curly Hair for Girls Who Want Straight Hair.” This was based on the premise that they, both curly-haired, had been afflicted their whole lives (I started to say they had suffered in silence but I suspect they'd agree neither one is – exactly – silent). They moved on to share both the history of curling appurtenances, incidents we all know well (think: Jo/Meg/sizzle), and the many (mostly hilarious) quotes surrounding Betsy and her hair. Laughter and applause accompanied their delivery. I am still thinking about some of those old-fashioned curling irons which look like something a medieval dentist would use. As my mother has been known to say, “Don’t yearn for time travel: in books the heroine may end up as a member of the aristocracy but it’s more likely you’d be a scullery maid living in an era without Novocain!”
Heather described her "recruitment"

Next up was Heather Vogel Frederick, author of The Mother-Daughter Book Club series and other books, who grew up in Massachusetts, attended college in the Midwest, and lived in Oregon for years before we NewBetsys reclaimed her. Heather told the story about how she became a Betsy-Tacy fan, which gets funnier every time I hear it. As many good stories begin, she was minding her own business, busy promoting her book when Things Started Happening. First, a former listren in the Midwest urged her to read BT and BTT. Then, Heather happened to be speaking at a librarian conference in Portland where she was dangerously close to several of our more spontaneous Betsy-Fans. They accosted the unsuspecting Heather, anxious to persuade her to have her Mother-Daughter Book Club characters read Betsy-Tacy! This was obviously a good idea but might never have come to pass if Heather’s enlightened husband hadn’t urged her to accept an invitation to dinner from our own Radhika. I believe they withheld dessert until Heather agreed to read the whole series. She began to like the crazy women who were holding her hostage (Heather, this is known as the Stockholm Syndrome) although if she really liked them as much as she claimed, I don’t think she would have moved East, do you? Now she is a real member of what my sisters call “your cult” and we are delighted to have her (especially because she has more dignity than the average NewBetsy, and it might rub off on us, or not – see below, reading Forever in the hot tub). Heather interspersed her presentation with letters she has received from fans, some of whom now love Maud Hart Lovelace as well as Dear Mrs. Frederick.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Betsy-Tacy Convention, Day 2

Early Saturday morning the amazing and uncomplaining (but perhaps wondering if herding cats would be easier) Josephine stewarded her charges onto buses for the motherland, Mankato!   Note that no one suggested we sing going either direction – perhaps the listren are not known for their melodious voices?   Or maybe no one wanted to be pelted by extra breakfast sandwiches? If NewBetsy Deb Holland had been with us, I suspect we would have been singing pleasingly.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Betsy-Tacy Convention, Day 1

Betsy-Tacy fans from all over the US and Canada headed to the Twin Cities yesterday and today for the 2018 convention, organized by Josephine Wolff, who only a short time ago was a well-read 8-year-old and is now an adult and accomplished member of the RIT faculty.   Although Delta tried to tempt me by offering me $500 to give up my 8:00 am flight, I made it to MSP and found the shuttle bus to the hotel.   It turned out that Mary Gebben, recently moved to Massachusetts from Georgia, was on my flight, along with a congenial family whose daughters (5th and 7th grades) attend my alma mater.
Where the Violent Study Club met
The Hawthornes' home
Once at the hotel it was fun to see so many familiar faces!   Lots of hugging!   I had lunch with the inimitable Kathy Baxter, Radhika Breaden, Jan and Mike Sasser, and when you are with Betsy-Tacy friends you forget that you haven’t seen them for 9 years!   We barely tore ourselves away in time to get on the bus for a tour of some key Minneapolis sites.   These included 4941 Lyndale Avenue South, the home of Jimmy and Marbeth Cliff, hosts of the Violent Study Club, and 4649 Dupont Avenue South, home of the Hawthornes (and Sally Day) where Delos proposed to Maud.  
Left to right, Nancy Downing, Jessica Weissman, Julie Chuba
Then we went to Mueller Park, which is the site of the Rays’ Minneapolis home.   I did not see the commemorative plaque because I had lingered outside the Canoe Place House at 1109 West 25th Street and started talking to a neighbor who was curious about all the women taking pictures.  Sorry, Jen, it’s important to proselytize My bus partner, Mary Koger, had to call me and tell me to hurry up, the bus was waiting!  We also got to see the interior of Betsy and Joe’s first apartment – Bow Street – located at 2400 Aldrich Avenue South.   The good-natured young man who lives there had probably never seen anything as crazy as the women who paraded through, and many (like me) wanted to see the back door (now covered by a refrigerator) where Mr. Ray had groceries delivered.
The Bow Street apartment - Betsy's window
The back door where Mr. Ray's groceries were delivered!
Then we went to Lakewood Cemetery to see Maud’s parents’ graves.    The cemetery was very pretty and by now the day was warm and sunny (although there was hail when Josephine went running this morning) but first we found the wrong Hart grave!  Jen had to phone for reinforcements to find the correct tombstones.
Jia Tolentino
Mary Koger brought Kate's Sutherland's poems to be autographed
The keynote speaker tonight was New Yorker writer Jia Tolentino, who had delighted the listren last year with an impressive article about Emily of Deep Valley and how the lessons learned from Deep Valley’s Syrian community are so relevant today.   Maybe I will get a chance to ask her if she got any reader mail – surely the article inspired some new Betsy-Tacy readers?   She spoke tonight about Emily of Deep Valley and her attentive audience supplied boos for Don and cheers for more deserving characters and themes.   She got a standing ovation from an audience pleased to share such deep appreciation for one of Maud Hart Lovelace’s lesser-known books.

Left to right, Brandee Murphy, Stephanie Murphy, Heather Vogel Frederick, Marlena Boggs
Tomorrow we go to Deep Valley!