Catalyst

Catalyst

When a food storage depot in famine-struck South Sudan is torched, American aid worker Brie Stewart flees, only to land in a market where she’s the next item up for auction. Is the attack on the aid facility another assault upon the war-torn fledgling democracy, or has her family set her up as a pawn in their quest for oil rights?

Chief Warrant Officer Sebastian Ford crossed paths with Brie years ago when she was a shill for her family’s company, pushing a pipeline that threatened his tribe’s land. Determined to lead the rescue operation to save her, he won’t let her abduction—or the attraction that flares between them—get in the way of settling their unfinished business.

The Green Beret’s skills are put to the test in the flooded grasslands of South Sudan, where they must battle nature and dangerous factions who are after more than oil. Bastian and Brie put their hearts on the line as they find themselves embroiled in a conflict that extends beyond country and continent. Together they must douse the spark before it reaches the flashpoint and engulfs everything they hold dear.

–from Goodreads.com

first blade

First Blade: Awakening Book 1 by Jane Hinchey

In my search for Helen Harper read-alikes, I sampled this author and book.  Georgina awakens the first blade, a blade that has special abilities, and also awakens the interest of vampires, both the good, and the bad or evil.  It is a paranormal romance, where the protagonist, Georgina, gets herself in trouble, every time she attempts to prove that she is capable, one time she kills her boyfriend, she also gets herself locked in a dungeon to be tortured by an evil vampire (unlike the others).  It is interesting how few tall slender blondes women are heroines.

 

Drawbacks: fair amount of torture, lots of sex, characters behaving rather stupidly. However, Consent was modeled very nicely.

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A New Path to the Waterfall: Poems

In the midst of writing this collection of poems in 1988, Raymond Carver found out that he had only so many months to live. In these poems Carver traces the highlights of his life including the day he discovered that there were people out in the world who took poetry seriously. He reminisces about his drinking days and his marriage. His last verses dealt with his own mortality. In the words of one critic, Carver wrote “poems strong enough to turn . . .  death into art.”

Matchup

MatchUp

Part of the attraction of fan fiction is the “what if?” factor, mashing up of different characters, times, and locations. That concept is what makes MatchUp so much fun in this collection of 11 short stories by members of the  International Thriller Writers Inc. By donating their characters, some of the most popular male and female thriller authors are paired off as their creations interact with one another.

Part of the challenge facing the writers was creating a story in which their characters could encounter one another, such as Lisa Scottoline’s Bennie Rosato and Nelson DeMille’s John Corey investigating terrorists at a deserted lakeside cabin in “Getaway.” But what do you do when the characters exist hundreds of years apart, such as Diana Gabaldon and Steve Berry bringing together Jamie Fraser and Cotton Malone in “Past Prologue”? Or when a character has been retired, such as David Morrell’s Rambo — sort of — with Gayle Lynds’ kidnapped Liz Sansborough in “Rambo on Their Minds”?

Lee Child edits the collection, introducing  the  characters, explaining how the authors collaborated, difficulties they had to overcome in creating their stories, and occasionally a behind-the-scenes morsel. The result are thrillers that take place throughout the world, featuring theft, fights, intrigue, escape and murder in a variety of genres. Fantasy, comedy, western, the paranormal – they’re all here. Even if you are not  familiar with every character, the chance to sample new authors made every story an enjoyable adventure.

MatchUp is a follow up to FaceOff, another collection of thriller authors and their characters, edited by David Baldacci.

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Ever After

A romantic, modern day Cinderella/ Happily-Ever-After story, Ever After centers around Hallie Hartley, a young woman, who has had to sacrifice almost everything in consideration of her more beautiful step-sister, Shelly. Spoiled, selfish Shelly has always known how to get her own way and to get around her older step-sister. Everything Hallie has ever wanted, Shelly wants more and usually gets it, including men. But when a mysterious relative leaves a house on the island of Nantucket to Hallie, it is like a God-send, because the house also comes with the handsome James Taggert who is staying at the house recovering from a skiing accident. As it turns out, Hallie is a physical therapist and as they work closely together, both are drawn out of their shell, and toward each other. Little do they know, that the other inhabitants of the house, three unlikely ghosts, are helping them along with their romance!

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The Last to See Me

Emma Rose Finnis is a ghost who has been haunting the Lambry house for the last one hundred years. There is no one left to remember who she was, an Irish chambermaid for the Lambry family and later for the Folde family where Eugenia Lambry had sent her to keep her away from her son, Quint. Yet, Quint Lambry is undeterred in his ardor of the young Emma Rose and continues to court her against his family’s wishes, until they send him far away to San Francisco to attend college. When Emma Rose hides aboard a steamship to follow Quint, the ship capsizes in a storm, sinking to the bottom of the ocean and Emma is drowned, only to discover that she has become a ghost, a ghost who will haunt the Lambry family for centuries to come. But in the 21st century, spirits like Emma Rose are considered “unclean” and one determined ghost “hunter”  ruthlessly hunts down Emma’s ghost in the tiny seacoast village of Benito. Yet, Emma Rose proves just as determined and willful not to be destroyed or hounded from the house she now considers her own.

Night in Eden

Night in Eden

Bryony Wentworth, once a wealthy, privileged English landowner, is convicted of murdering her husband. After being transported to a penal colony in New South Wales while pregnant, Bryony gives birth to her child, then loses it to fever. Captain Hayden St. John collects her from the prison so that she can become a wet nurse for his son. Grief stricken over the loss of his wife, Hayden is bitter and untrusting. Bryony, fearful and angry at her fate, finds much to resent in Hayden, but his child offers her a new will to live. Although Hayden and Bryony fight their attraction, their union is so deeply passionate that it seems nothing can threaten their happiness until Bryony’s past comes to haunt her.

–from Goodreads.com

Smoke Screen

Smoke Screen

When newswoman Britt Shelley wakes up to find herself in bed with Jay Burgess, a rising star detective in the Charleston PD, she remembers nothing of how she got there…or of how Jay wound up dead.

Handsome and hard-partying, Jay was a hero of the disastrous fire that five years earlier had destroyed Charleston’s police headquarters. The blaze left seven people dead, but the death toll would have been much higher if not for the bravery of Jay and three other city officials who risked their lives to lead others to safety.

Firefighter Raley Gannon, Jay’s lifelong friend, was off-duty that day. Though he might not have been a front-line hero, he was assigned to lead the investigation into the cause of the fire. It was an investigation he never got to complete. Because on one calamitous night, Raley’s world was shattered.

Scandalized, wronged by the people he trusted most, Raley was forced to surrender the woman he loved and the work to which he’d dedicated his life. For five years his resentment against the men who exploited their hero status to further their careers — and ruin his — had festered, but he was helpless to set things right.

That changes when he learns of Jay Burgess’s shocking death and Britt Shelley’s claim that she has no memory of her night with him. As the investigation into Jay’s death intensifies, and suspicion against Britt Shelley mounts, Raley realizes that the newswoman, Jay’s last sexual conquest, might be his only chance to get personal vindication — and justice for the seven victims of the police station fire.

But there are powerful men who don’t want to address unanswered questions about the fire and who will go to any lengths to protect their reputations. As Raley and Britt discover more about what happened that fateful day, the more perilous their situation becomes, until they’re not only chasing after the truth but running for their lives.

Friends are exposed as foes, heroes take on the taint of criminals, and no one can be trusted completely. A tale about audacious corruption — and those with the courage to expose it — Smoke Screen is Sandra Brown’s most searing and intense novel yet.

–from Goodreads.com

Imagine Heaven

Imagine Heaven

All of us long to know what life after death will be like. Bestselling author John Burke is no exception. In Imagine Heaven, he compares more than one hundred gripping stories of near-death experiences (NDEs) to what Scripture says about our biggest questions of Heaven: Will I be myself? Will I see friends and loved ones? What will Heaven look like? What is God like? What will we do forever? What about children and pets?

Burke shows how the common experiences shared by thousands of near-death survivors–including doctors, college professors, bank presidents, people of all ages and cultures, and even blind people–point to the exhilarating picture of Heaven promised in the Bible.

This thrilling journey into the afterlife will make you feel like you’ve been there, forever changing the way you view the life to come–and the way you live your life today. You’ll discover Heaven is even more amazing than you’ve ever imagined.

–from Goodreads.com

Whispers and lies

Whispers and lies

Terry Painter enjoys her quiet life in tranquil Delray, Florida, where the single, forty-year-old nurse lives alone in the house she inherited from her mother. When young, vibrant Alison Simms rents the cottage on her property, the two women strike up a fast friendship — and Terry is swept into a fantastic new life: dinners out, shopping, makeovers, even flirting with the handsome son of one of her elderly patients. But nothing about her newfound companion is as it appears, as Terry discovers when Alison’s closely guarded past comes to light. Now Terry is locked into a race to reclaim her own life — before she opens the door any further to the stranger she thought she knew…

–from Goodreads.com

The Best Man

The Best Man

Archer comes from a fairly standard family in suburban Chicago. His mom is a marriage counselor (Archer thinks she is a wedding planner for years), his dad restores classic cars, his grandpa lives nearby and is a big part of his life, and his uncle Paul is one of the coolest people Archer knows. Archer’s story begins and ends with a wedding. The first wedding occurs when Archer is 6 and he is the ringbearer. It is an unqualified disaster on Archer’s part involving split velvet shorts and a muddy behind. He does meet his best friend and protector Lynette there, however, and she becomes an integral part of his life. Things progress fairly normally throughout his elementary years. He is a bit clueless and usually the last to figure things out, but things are pretty normal. Then comes the year of Mr. McLeod. Mr. McLeod is their new student teacher and completely different from any other teacher they have had. He is an army reservist and comes out as gay when defending a bullied student. Then Mr. McLeod and Uncle Paul meet and sparks fly. The book ends with their wedding with Archer as Best Man for both of them.

I loved the realness of this story. There isn’t a lot of action or excitement, but it is a beautifully told story that I think will resonate with a lot of kids. The snappy dialogue and interesting characters add a lot to what would have otherwise been a slower story. Archer is a normal, clueless kid who loves his family and wants to be like the men in his life. I thought everything from the declining health and eventual death of grandpa to the realization that both Uncle Paul and Mr. McLeod were gay were handled very well and in a way that made it all seem like just a part of life. There wasn’t anything radical or unusual about any of it. I think that was the point that Richard Peck was making and made so well. This is life. This is what happens in life. You don’t get all worked up about normal everyday things, but those normal things are what makes us who we are. Excellent work!

Patina

Patina

Patina is book 2 in Jason Reynold’s Track series. Patina has had a hard life, but she is not running from it like Ghost. She is holding the reins very tightly, maybe too tightly. Patina’s dad died when she was little before her sister Maddy was even born. Her mom has diabetes and lost her legs. So now Patina and Maddy live with their aunt and uncle (dad’s brother). They do get to see mom every Sunday at church. Their aunt, Momly, takes good care of them even if she does only cook turkey legs for dinner. Because they moved in with Momly and Uncle they now go to a fancy school away from the old neighborhood. Maddy does fine there, but Patina doesn’t really fit in. A group project at school shows how everyone thinks she is going to do the work and let the others skate by. The one great point in Patina’s life is track. She runs the 800 meters and loves it. She doesn’t love losing though and is a bit of a sore loser. When she is picked to be part of the relay team she has to learn how to work with others.

I appreciate the fact that Jason Reynolds can write about girls. Not all male authors can inhabit the world of girls and I thought he did a fantastic job. Patina’s story is all about letting go of a little bit of control and letting others help. It is also about learning to work with others. Because of that it is a bit of a slower story. That doesn’t mean it isn’t as important or interesting as other books, it is just quieter and slower. I thought it had some great details about track and being on a relay team. I also thought the information about diabetes was very well done. And I liked that Patina and Maddy still had a relationship with their mother even though mom couldn’t take care of them anymore. Everyone was very supportive of each other and even though it wasn’t a traditional family, it is a family that works.

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You Bring The Distant Near

This is a multi-generational book about a family of Bengali women. The story begins in 1965 with the story of Sonia and Tara who are sisters and their mother, Ranee. The first chapter begins with them in Ghana the jumps to the 1970’s when they are immigrating to the United States. The story depicts the differences between the girls and their acclamation to the US and their mother who seems to be stuck to the old customs of the old country. Then it skips again to the 1990’s and early 2000’s and picks up with the stories of the daughters of Sonia and Tara.
This book skips too much time between sections and I never felt a cohesiveness to the story. The characters never fully develop (in my opinion), story lines are dropped and never resolved. I even felt that character physical descriptions abruptly changed from section to section. Take, for example, Chantal’s (Sonia”s daughter) first section, her interests are acting and traditional Indian dance but she doesn’t get cast in two roles because of her looks (not enough like a princess or a queen)but instead gets cast as the prince in one performance. The next section is her cousin’s (Anna). Anna is coming back to the US after living in India with her parents (her mother, Tara, is now a famous Bollywood star but how she got there is completely left out of the story). She is going to go to the same school as her cousin, Chantal, who is now long, lithe and beautiful and a star athlete. I spent much of this book confused. It skipped way to much and moved too fast. It felt like the author had a word number maximum to meet. I feel that the story would have benefited from sticking to the original two daughters, their relationship with their mother and the cultural clashes that came from immigrating to the US.

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Some Say

Maureen N. McLane’s Some Say revolves around a dazzling “old sun.” Here are poems on sex and death; here are poems testing the “bankrupt idea / of nature.” Some Say offers an erotics of attention; a mind roaming, registering, and intermittently blocked; a mortal poet going “nowhere fast but where / we’re all going.” From smartphones to dead gods to the beloved’s body, Some Say charts “the weather of an old day / suckerpunched” into the now.

Following on her bravura Mz N: the serial: A Poem-in-Episodes, McLane bends lyric to the torque of our moment—and of any moment under the given sun. Some Say encompasses full-barreled odes and austere lines, whiplashing discourse and minimal notations. In her fifth book of poems, McLane continues her “songs of a season” even as she responds to new vibrations—political, geological, transpersonal, trans-specific. Moving through forests and cities, up mountains, across oceans, toward a common interior, she sounds out the ecological mesh of the animate and inanimate. These are poems that make tracks in our “unmarked dark” as the poet explores “a cosmos full / of people and black holes.” From its troubled, exhilarated dawns to its scanned night sky, Some Say is both a furthering and a summation by a poet scouring and singing the world “full // as it always was / of wings / of meaning and nothing.” (goodreads.com)

witscurse

Witch’s Curse (The Bone Coven Chronicles) by Jenna Wolfart

Zoe works as a bartender and also as a “witch” able to banish evil demons, except she is just playing on regular human’s gullibility, faking the banishments.  The enforcers from the local witch coven comes looking for her when her latest client is actually killed by a demon, seconds after she collects her money and she exits his workplace.   One of the enforcers, Dorian, believes she is innocent and offers to work with her to find the real killer(s).  Both Zoe and Dorian are keeping secrets from each other, secrets about their identity.

Not as good as Helen Harper, but medium close.

 

 

 

Mermaids sister

The Mermaid’s Sister by Carrie Anne Noble.

Foundlings Clara and Maren have been raised as sisters by Auntie Verity.  However, as the girls are reaching their sixteenth birthday, Maren’s slow transformation into a mermaid speeds up.   Clara and O’neal their  foundling brother travel across country in a caravan to take Maren to the sea and save her life.  They encounter trouble along the way.

I really enjoyed this book, it has fantastic atmosphere.  Part of the resolution, seemed a little too pat.

 

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Sex Fantasy

A salacious title belies a moving look at intimacy and all its delicacies and absurdities.

Begun as a loose, ephemeral zine that was produced in limited editions, these small comics in both size and length are esoteric and immensely personal. Covering a span of four years, the comics collected here build a relationship that is deeper than their elegantly drawn surfaces. (goodreads.com)

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How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed

The Cold War is over, Communism has failed throughout Eastern Europe, but the struggles of women throughout what had once been the communist block have not really altered. Written in 1991, two years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed examines the personal experiences of women who had come through 45 years of  communistic regimes scathed and scarred and unable to give up ideas and habits of nearly a lifetime;  women still “weary in body, mind, and soul”,  women still suspicious and cautious; women still hoarding and saving everything in case the stores run out. Among the topics covered in this book of essays are religion, censorship,  and trust.

Written with sarcastic wit and irony Slavenka Drakulic describes the pain these women lived with for generations in that “other Europe” behind the Iron Curtain.

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Helter Skelter: the true story of the Manson murders

In the summer of 1969, in Los Angeles, a series of brutal, seemingly random murders captured headlines across America. A famous actress (and her unborn child), an heiress to a coffee fortune, a supermarket owner and his wife were among the seven victims. A thin trail of circumstances eventually tied the Tate-LeBianca murders to Charles Manson, a would-be pop singer of small talent living in the desert with his “family” of devoted young women and men. What was his hold over them? And what was the motivation behind such savagery? In the public imagination, over time, the case assumed the proportions of myth. The murders marked the end of the sixties and became an immediate symbol of the dark underside of that era.Vincent Bugliosi was the prosecuting attorney in the Manson trial, and this book is his enthralling account of how he built his case from what a defense attorney dismissed as only “two fingerprints and Vince Bugliosi.” The meticulous detective work with which the story begins, the prosecutor’s view of a complex murder trial, the reconstruction of the philosophy Manson inculcated in his fervent followers… these elements make for a true crime classic. ?Helter Skelter ?is not merely a spellbinding murder case and courtroom drama but also, in the words of ?The New Republic?, a “social document of rare importance.”

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Rainshadow Road

Lucy and her younger sister, Alice, are different as two sisters can be. Having suffered, then recovered from meningitis as a child, Alice, spoiled by her parents, grows up into an equally spoiled young woman who steals her older sister’s boyfriend right out from under her. It is not the first time Alice gets her own way and Lucy, devastated by her sister’s betrayal, decides enough is enough with both her sister and men. She decides to concentrate on her work as a glass artist and close the door on all the drama raging outside her art studio. Then Lucy is severely injured while riding her bike and Scott Nolan, a local vineyard owner takes her into his home to care for her.

Even as sparks fly between them, both Lucy and Scott, broken by their past, are afraid to move on, until they discover something truly magical about each other.