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.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Review: A Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart

Thanks to Barnes & Nobles's First Look Book Club for letting me review this one.

About the Book

One moonless night in February 1895, a young landowner in Texas cow country loses his wife in childbirth. In the lonely years that follow, his new son, his fourth, grows to become a skillful, aggressive jockey and his father, with equal fervor, stakes his land and fortunes on his success. In 1910, father and son, distant, yet strangely joined in this venture, race to a point of no return for the entire family. What happens to the son beyond that juncture will not reconfigure his past, but it will burnish him into unexpected maturity. (Hand-selling tip: Of this first novel, one early reader wrote, "If Evan S. Connell, William Faulkner, and Norman Maclean had been born as one person, he might possess the extraordinary gifts of Bruce Machart.")

My Review

This one took me a while to get into it. The writing was very "slow". Since I read this as part of a book group I didn't want to get to far ahead. So I'd read and get into the story, then when I got to the stopping point I found I had a hard time getting back into it. Had I read it straight through without stopping I probably would have liked it much more.

I loved how the author gave everything a feeling. The landscape, the animals, everything was described to have a sens of feeling. It was a nice change, but I think it became a little to much, as it just seemed to drag the story down some.

I didn't really get to connect with any of the characters. In fact there were some places in the book where I was confused as to who was talking, who was doing what, what was being done to who. I was just so lost at some points that it really frustrated me.

The story, if you take out the "extra" was pretty good. And it was an endeering story about lost love, in many forms, and how that can affect a person their whole life. The relationships between the characters was sad, and that sad feeling was the tone of the entire book. Everything was just sad.

I think if I had sat with this and read it straight through without taking breaks I would have liked it more. But as I said each time I picked it up I had to "get back into the story" and I think that took so much away from it for me.

The Wake of Forgiveness

Review: Tokyo Lives by Mark Hersberger

Thank you to Mark Hersberger for sending me a copy of his book to review.

About the Book

When a teenage runaway-turned-prostitute is found murdered in the dark alleys of Tokyo's raunchiest red-light district, no one seems to care...except The Snake, a grizzled, whiskeyswilling yakuza. It's an affront to his authority: No one gets away with murder on his turf.
Determined to render justice and restore his reputation, The Snake juggles his investigation amidst an impending gang war and an effort to get the Governor of Tokyo elected Prime Minister. The victim's former best friend holds the key to the mystery, and a romance blossoms while they chase the killer.

As the couple wades through their familiar milieu of ruthless gangsters, elite hostesses, and corrupt politicians, they reveal a cover-up that threatens the highest levels of power. Ancient yakuza codes of honor give way to betrayal as The Snake is torn between lifetime loyalties and justice.

The seamy back alleys of Tokyo come to life in this thriller folded as tightly as origami. These Tokyo lives aren't the ones you read about in travel guides-they're the ones that prey on the flaws and indiscretions of a nation.

For more information about Tokyo Lives please visit the book's website.

My Review

This was a really good book. It had a bit of everything in it. There was a hint of a love story. There was a really good murder mystery. It had emotions. And it was just exciting to read. I really liked it.

The main character The Snake was a great character. He is a gangster who is loyal to his "family", he is also ready to be done with the life he leads. That internal dilemma leads to some great twists in the story. While some of the other characters play fairly large roles in the book I connected the most with The Snake.

The story was really good. It was so suspenseful. While I thought I had the "whodunit" figured out at the beginning I kept second guessing myself, and I wasn't even close as to the why!

I've never been to Tokyo, but Hersberger does a great job of painting the pictures for me. Using my experience living in various "not so nice areas" I was able to paint a pretty good idea of how the neighborhood looked. Even the smells were ones that I could easily draw from my experiences...

The story itself was really good. The twists that the story takes really keeps you guessing through the whole book. Given the predictability of some of the recent mystery novels I've read this was quite refreshing. The twists weren't anything that seemed to "out there". Everything was plausible and fit really well into the story line. Even tying up the ending was done well. I felt like everything that needed to be "finished" was and the things that you were supposed to keep guessing about were left open. The ending also didn't feel rushed.

I really liked all the different stories that were going on. There was the murder mystery. There was the changing of the guards, so to speak, within the yakuza. There was the governor's race going on. The seedy lives of the prostitutes and call-girls. And everything just melded so well together. It took me a while to pick it up, but once I did I didn't want to put it down.

Tokyo Lives

Review: Audiobook: The Brave by Nicholas Evans

Thank you to Hachette Audio for sending me a copy of this title for review.

About the Book

Tom Bedford is living alone in the isolated wilds of Montana. Having distanced himself from his own troubled past, he rarely sees his ex-wife, and his son, Danny, is away in Iraq and hasn't spoken to him for years. Tom hasn't always been so removed from society. As a boy, his mother was a meteoric rising star in the glitzy, enchanted world of 1960s Hollywood. There, she fell in love with the suave Ray Montane, who played young Tom's courageous onscreen hero, Red McGraw, the fastest draw around. Tommy and his mother lived in a glamorous, Hollywood version of the Wild West. Everything was perfect, until the gold flaking on their magical life began to chip away, revealing an uglier truth beneath. Ray was not who he seemed. Tommy and his mother fell into a deadly confrontation with him, and they fled Hollywood forever, into the wilderness of the real West.

As a man, Tom has put all of that behind him--or so he thinks. Unexpectedly, his ex-wife calls, frantic: Danny has been charged with murder. In the chaos of war, his son has been caught in a violent skirmish gone bloodily awry. The Army needs someone to pay for the mistake. Tom, forced into action, is now suddenly alive again and fighting to save the son he'd let slip away. To succeed, he must confront the violence in his own past, and he finds that these two selves--the past and the present--which he'd fought so long to keep separate, are inextricably connected. As father and son struggle to understand one another, both are compelled to learn the true meaning of bravery.

Beautifully interlacing the past and present, the author of The Horse Whisperer reminds us that we are tied to the glories and mistakes of our own history. The Brave lives up to its name, as one the most courageous and full-hearted novels of our time.

For more information about The Brave please visit Hachette's website.

Watch the Trailer for The Brave on You Tube.

Visit Nicholas' website.

You can also "Like" Nicholas Evans on Facebook.

My Review

This book was beautiful. Which sounds like a weird way to describe a book, especially one with a few murders in the plot... But beautiful is such a great word for it.

The characters were all great. I loved Tommy and Diane. Cal was another great character. The story follows Tommy through his life growing up in England, moving to Hollywood, and eventually "settling down" in Montana. The whole way through I was so captivated by what he was going through. The opening scene with Tommy and his mother is so captivating that I couldn't help but care what happens to Tommy through the rest of the story.

The writing was beautiful in this story. Since it was an audiobook that I read I can imagine some of the imagery was as much from the writing as it was from the narrator's voice. But either way I could see everything that was going on. The descriptions weren't long and drawn out, but everything I saw in my head was on a large scale. I didn't just see where the action was happening, if they were in a room I saw the whole room, if they were outside I could see the whole scaling landscape around the area. I think the writing and the narration were such a perfect fit for each other that this book really was able to take on a life of it's own for me.

The story itself was great also. The story jumps around in Tommy's life. Each part of the story answers one question and then raises another. Even when the story jumps forward it somehow is able to answer the questions from the past... The story wasn't always fast-paced, but it wasn't boring either. Everything about this story just hit that perfect balance.

The narrator for this one was amazing. I don't like to see who narrates before I start and audiobook because then as I'm listening to the book all the characters take on the narrator (especially if it is someone famous). While I was listening I kept thinking to myself this voice is so familiar, and when I finished and looked to see who it was I realized why I liked the narration so much. Michael Emerson has such a great voice. I loved Lost, and even though I didn't so much like Ben I do like the guy who plays Ben. He was able to give each of the characters their own voice, without making them sound fake or "put on". I loved the narration as much as I loved the story.

The Brave: A Novel

Review: Audiobook: The Postcard Killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund

Thank you to Hachette Book for sending me a copy to review.

About the Book

NYPD detective Jack Kanon is on a tour of Europe's most gorgeous cities. But the sights aren't what draw him--he sees each museum, each cathedral, and each restaurant through a killer's eyes.

Kanon's daughter, Kimmy, and her boyfriend were murdered while on vacation in Rome. Since then, young couples in Paris, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, and Stockholm have become victims of the same sadistic killers. Now Kanon teams up with the Swedish reporter, Dessie Larsson. Every killing is preceded by a postcard to the local newspaper--and Kanon and Larsson think they know where the next victims will be. With relentless logic and unstoppable action, THE POSTCARD KILLERS may be James Patterson's most vivid and compelling thriller yet.

For more information about The Postcard Killers please visit Hachette's website.

My Review

I've only read a few James Patterson novels. I've always heard great things about his writing and I really wanted to start reading some of his stuff. My only problem thus far is that everything of his I've read has been so predictable. I've had such high expectations for each of his books and I've been let down with each one.

Having said that I don't hate his books. I think that the sheer number of books that he has released, with co-authors, has lead to a bit of overkill. I like the story lines, I like the characters, but it's so easy to predict the end of the book.

This one was no different. While it did have a bit more of an emotional connection than I've felt with the other Patterson novels it was still predictable. I liked the characters. Dessi was a great character. She was very well rounded, she had such a great back story, and as her past starts popping up she becomes even more likable. For her to come from where she came from and be able to do what she's done it was very touching. Jack wasn't an unlikable character, but I didn't really connect with him. I did feel sympathy for him, but that was about the extent of my connection.

The story was pretty fast-paced. Things happened pretty quickly in this one. It didn't take long for the killers to get going, actually that's how the book opens. As the reasoning behind the killings come out, it is pretty shallow. But I guess a killer doesn't really have to have a good reason to kill (killers are crazy after all).

Since this was an audiobook I have to talk about the narrators. There were actually three of them in this story. I liked the differences in the narrators. It helped me to keep track of when the story changed. When I'm listening to an audiobook I find it easy to get lost as far as what's going on, and who's doing what but the three different narrators would at least keep me on track as to who the story was following. I have to say that I wish more audiobooks were read like this, I really liked it.

The Postcard Killers

Review: Healing With Words by Diana Raab

Thank you to Diana for sending me her book to review.

About the Book

Healing With Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey is a memoir and self-help book highlighting Diana’s cancer journey. In 2001 at the age of forty-seven, happily married and the mother of three, she was diagnosed with early breast cancer and five years later, diagnosed by seemingly unrelated and incurable blood cancer—multiple myeloma. The book candidly chronicles in a wry and inspirational tone, her experiences, using reflection, poetry and journal entries. At the end of each chapter writing prompts and blank journaling pages are provided for readers to express their own personal story. The book also contains extensive appendices with support organization and writing tips.

Raab considers journaling to be like a daily vitamin—healing, detoxifying and essential for optimal health. Since early childhood, Raab has found solace in writing after her mother gave her a journal to cope with the loss of her beloved grandmother. In lieu of allowing cancer to destroy and take over her life, she has gracefully embraced the experience and views it as a positive turning point in her life.

Get more information about Healing With Words from Diana Raab's website.

Read the guest post Diana posted here on JustJenniferReading.

You can also "Like" Healing with words on Facebook.

My Review

I think everyone has been touched by cancer in some way. I've lost a few family members to cancer and there are also a few survivors in my family. I'm sure I'm not alone in that. While I've never had cancer I know what the fighter is going through in their battle. Most people have their own way of dealing with cancer, but for those who don't I think this book could be very helpful.

The book is both a biographical story and a journal. I liked the format that it was written in. Raab talks about different points in her cancer journey and then gives prompts for the reader to write about their journey. She gives small prompts like "Describe your admission to the hospital". I think these are the kinds of things that are difficult for people to talk about, but I also think that keeping all these feelings bottled up inside is not the way to deal with them.

I also liked the poetry that Raab wrote through her journey. She talks in the book about the different emotions she was feeling and these emotions come through in the poetry she has dispersed throughout.

For someone who is dealing with cancer I think this book could be a beneficial tool to help the cope with what they are going through. While I've never written anything significant I used to keep a journal and also wrote poems and short stories. I've always found writing to be therapeutic. And while cancer is a disease of the physical body the medicines and treatments do little to heal the mind and soul.

If you, or someone you know, are struggling with cancer I would recommend this book. It was sometimes difficult to read and it was very emotional. But at the same there were moments of hope and I think that those are the things that we all need to hold on to, regardless of what kind of struggle we are going through.

Healing With Words: A writer's cancer journey