While some of the books I review on my site are furnished by the publishers, authors, or publicists for the purpose of review all of my reviews are truthful, honest, and my sincere opinion.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Review: The Secrets of Newberry by Victor McGlothin

Thanks to Anna at Hachette Book Group for letting me review this one.

About the Book

Two lifelong friends are about to discover the hard side of life in The Big Easy after a heinous crime is committed . . .

1950s New Orleans couldn't be sweeter for Ivory "Bones" Arcineaux and Hampton Bynote. Friends since meeting at an illegal gambling house outside Newberry, Louisiana, they indulge themselves with all the fine women, good food, and wild nights they can handle. All seems good in N'awlins-especially for Hampton, who plans to make a clean break from riotous living after falling for the woman of his dreams, classy Magnolia Holiday. But the love of a good woman may not be enough to pull Hampton from the brink of disaster when his pal Bones murders a white city councilman during a simple robbery gone wrong.

Now with the local police and FBI hot on their trails, Hampton and Bones must decide whether friendship is worth losing their freedom-and possibly their lives

For more information about The Secrets of Newberry please visit Hachette Book Group's website.

My Review

Wow, what a story. I couldn't put this one down, it was so intriguing. I really liked Hampton and wanted to see everything turn out ok for him, even though he kept getting himself into trouble.

The story was really well written. Hampton is looking for something more than life on a plantation can offer a black man in the 1950s. Things seem to be going fairly well for him and then he meet Bones. Bones becomes Hampton's ticket to the life he wants while at the same time being the one thing that can take Hampton's dreams from him.

The story moves pretty fast, and at times I felt a bit too fast. Some things just seemed to me that they needed to simmer a bit more before coming to conclusion. There was a lot that happened in the story though and I think that's part of why everything moved so fast. Had it been a slow story it either would have been too long to hold my attention or it would have been missing so many pieces.

It was a pretty good story and I really enjoyed it. I really didn't want to put it down because I wanted to see how Hampton was going to get him (and his family) out of the binds that they've gotten into. While things don't always go the way Hampton planned he was pretty quick on his feet and was able to at least put band-aids on the situations that arise.

I liked Hampton and really wanted to see good things for him. I also liked Magnolia (Hampton's love interest). But I think my favorite character was Pearl Lee, see just seemed to be so level headed. Although she does have some moments when her heart takes over and she throws that level-headedness out the door.

The Secrets of Newberry

Review: Death's Door: The Truth Behind Michigan's Largest Mass Murder by Steve Lehto

Thanks to my sister for letting me borrow this. And yes you would have enjoyed it had it not been required reading for school.

About the Book

On Christmas Eve 1913, more than six dozen people were crushed to death as they scrambled to flee the Italian Hall in Calumet, Mich. Someone had cried "Fire" at the top of the stairs that led to the meeting hall on the building's second floor. There was no fire. The entire event was over in a flash, but the tragedy would scar the psyche of the region for decades. Was the call of "fire" a tragic error or a calculated action designed to cause chaos?

In Death's Door: The Truth Behind Michigan's Largest Mass Murder, author and attorney Steve Lehto wades through the conflicting news reports, transcripts, and other documentation to set the record straight.

For more information about this book please visit Momentum Books' website.

My Review

This was a pretty interesting story. Having lived in Michigan my entire life I was surprised that I'd never heard of this incident before. It seems that with all the lore surrounding these murders that it would still be something that people would bring up, at least occasionally.

Since I've never heard of the incident at the Italian Hall before I do not know how well the information presented in this book meshes with popular opinion. However, Lehto does mentions many times where his findings do not support popular belief.

The book was very informational and I think it was fairly unbiased. However the only complaint I have is that once I got towards the end of the book I felt like I was just rereading the same information over and over again. It became somewhat monotonous. But it was still interesting, and I liked that it gave quite a bit of the back story to the Italian Hall Tragedy. I felt that having the back story gave the tragedy a bit more depth than if the book had just covered what happened the day of the tragedy.

While this was interesting I wouldn't say it read like fiction. For you to enjoy this one I think you'd really have to be interested in real-life stories. There were a lot of facts in the book, things that you wouldn't normally see in a fiction book. But overall I have to say it was worth the read.

Death's Door: The Truth Behind Michigan's Largest Mass Murder

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Review: The Glamour of Grammar by Roy Peter Clark

Thanks to Hachette Book Group for letting me review this one.

About the Book

Early in the history of English, the words "grammar" and "glamour" meant the same thing: the power to charm. Roy Peter Clark, author of Writing Tools, aims to put the glamour back in grammar with this fun, engaging alternative to stuffy instructionals. In this practical guide, readers will learn everything from the different parts of speech to why effective writers prefer concrete nouns and active verbs. THE GLAMOUR OF GRAMMAR gives readers all the tools they need to"live inside the language"--to take advantage of grammar to perfect their use of English, to instill meaning, and to charm through their writing. With this indispensable book, readers will come to see just how glamorous grammar can be.

For more information about The Glamour of Grammar please visit Hachette Book Group's website.

My Review

What I liked the most about this book is that it wasn't written like a grammar book. It was written more like a story that had grammar tips added into it. It was kind of like a copy of Writer's Inc. with a story behind it. And while I'd never get rid of my copy of Writer's Inc. I think this will make a nice addition to my grammar tools arsenal.

I have to admit that I'm not the best grammatical writer. I don't remember most of the rules I learned in school (frankly I didn't care to really remember them). So while I was reading this some of it seemed new to me. The greatest thing about this book is that it taught me something without making me realize I was being taught. Since I'm finishing up my degree, reading for learning isn't something I want to do with my spare time. After reading this I have to admit that I didn't get that feeling even once throughout the book. I think that was a great feat within itself, writing a book that is meant to teach something not feel like it was teaching anything at all.

I still don't remember all the rules that were in this one, but I think I have a better understanding of why some rules of grammar exist and why some are breakable. I'm sure this one will be quite worn out before I finally finish my degree. It's already helped me write a few papers.

The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English

Review: Lipstick in Afghanistan by Rboerta Gately

Thanks to Gallery Books for sending me a copy of this to review.

About the Book

Roberta Gately's lyrical and authentic debut novel—inspired by her own experiences as a nurse in third world war zones—is one woman's moving story of offering help and finding hope in the last place she expected.
Gripped by haunting magazine images of starving refugees, Elsa has dreamed of becoming a nurse since she was a teenager. Of leaving her humble working-class Boston neighborhood to help people whose lives are far more difficult than her own. No one in her family has ever escaped poverty, but Elsa has a secret weapon: a tube of lipstick she found in her older sister's bureau. Wearing it never fails to raise her spirits and cement her determination. With lipstick on, she can do anything—even travel alone to war-torn Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11.
But violent nights as an ER nurse in South Boston could not prepare Elsa for the devastation she witnesses at the small medical clinic she runs in Bamiyan. As she struggles to prove herself to the Afghan doctors and local villagers, she begins a forbidden romance with her only confidant, a charming Special Forces soldier. Then, a tube of lipstick she finds in the aftermath of a tragic bus bombing leads her to another life-changing friendship. In her neighbor Parween, Elsa finds a kindred spirit, fiery and generous. Together, the two women risk their lives to save friends and family from the worst excesses of the Taliban. But when the war waging around them threatens their own survival, Elsa discovers her only hope is to unveil the warrior within. Roberta Gately's raw, intimate novel is an unforgettable tribute to the power of friendship and a poignant reminder of the tragic cost of war.

My Review

I absolutely loved this book. I loved it so much that I can't think of the right words to describe it, at least not any that would do it justice. The story was so heartwarming, sad, happy, and touching. It was so sad and yet was filled with so much joy.

When I started reading it I didn't really expect the story that unfolded. At first I didn't understand the whole thing with the lipstick, but as the story progressed it was such a great way of tying the characters to each other.

The story jumps a between Elsa and Parween until their lives cross. The tragedy that follows each of these women seems almost unbearable, but yet they've pulled through it and made the most of their lives. Both women are so strong and give all they have to help others. Even putting their lives on the line to help those in need.

The romance that blooms throughout the book is such a great addition to the story. With so much devastation and sadness in the story adding the different romances kept the story enjoyable. Without the romance added in the story would have been so full of grief and sorrow that it would have almost been oppressive to read.

Overall I would say this is one of the best books I've ever read. Gately's writing is amazing. Her ability to tell a story like this is nothing short of amazing. It really makes you think. And it shows that just because people are surrounded by hatred, war, and fathom doesn't mean you have to fill your heart with those things. Happiness is what you make of it and these characters really made me realize that.

Lipstick in Afghanistan

Review: A Writer's Engagement by Robert Wacaster

Thank you to Robert for sending me his book to review.

About the Book

Robert and Katie have met and fallen in love. But that may have been the easy part. After promising to propose and marry her, Robert convinces Katie and her sister Jill to drive to Florida so he can meet Katie's parents. Her disapproving father, a retired New York Police Officer, may not even approve of their relationship, let alone a marriage. And along the way, Jill may have possibly met the man of her dreams. But she may be too shy to even talk to him. With some marriage counseling and family interference, can Robert and Katie actually survive A Writer's Engagement?

My Review

I really like Robert Wacaster's books. He does a great job with making the characters believable. I also like that in each of the books of his that I've read he's made himself a main character.

In this one Katie and Robert have now fallen in love (in A Writer's Love Story). This book picks right up where the last one left off. I really liked that. Sometimes I've found with series that some time passes between the stories, which makes me feel like I've missed out on something in the story. So I like that there's not a "break" in the stories.

I still liked the characters. Katie was still a drama queen, but now that I've read through two books with her she's kind of grown on me. Jill was still a great character. She does have some moments in this one where she's not the level-headed Jill from the first book, but I think that just makes her more human. And Robert is still Robert in this book. He's sarcastic, thoughtful, and in love. We also get to meet Jill and Katie's parents in this one. I loved Jim, their father. If my own father wasn't the greatest dad ever I'd have to pick Jim to be my father.

The story was a bit slower than the other two Wacaster books I've read, but it wasn't a detriment to the story at all. I think the things that were going on in this story needed the "time" to develop. If the story had been fast I think I would have felt like I was missing something.

I have to say that Robert Wacaster has become one of my favorite authors and I look forward to reading more of his books soon!

A Writer's Engagement