The Witness by Nora Roberts

The WitnessThe Witness. Finished 7-22-14, rating 4.5/5, romantic suspense, pub.2012

Unabridged audio expertly performed by Julia Whelan.  16 hours, 30 minutes.

Daughter of a controlling mother, Elizabeth finally let loose one night, drinking at a nightclub and allowing a strange man’s seductive Russian accent lure her to a house on Lake Shore Drive. The events that followed changed her life forever. 

Twelve years later, the woman known as Abigail Lowery lives on the outskirts of a small town in the Ozarks. A freelance programmer, she designs sophisticated security systems — and supplements her own security with a fierce dog and an assortment of firearms. She keeps to herself, saying little, revealing nothing. But Abigail’s reserve only intrigues police chief Brooks Gleason. Her logical mind, her secretive nature, and her unromantic viewpoints leave him fascinated but frustrated. He suspects that Abigail needs protection from something — and that her elaborate defenses hide a story that must be revealed.

from Goodreads

I am not a big Nora Roberts fan but have enjoyed her books from time to time, so when I saw Sheree’s review I knew I’d have to give this one a listen.  Like Sheree, I have to give major props to narrator, Julia Whelan.  She really did elevate the story.  And, also like Sheree, I was riveted.   I do think it could have been a tad shorter but that is my only minor complaint.  This is a win from Roberts.

I fell in love with the very smart Elizabeth from the beginning.  Her time as a teen was my absolute favorite part of the book.  She was a smart girl who was controlled by a cold mother and one night she decided to live a little and act her  (young) age.  When the night ends in murder, the Russian mob, and a chase, Elizabeth ends up in the Witness Protection Program.  Okay, I guess I do have another small squabble with the book.  I don’t think Roberts portrayed this program accurately, but it’s fiction so that’s okay, I guess.  This section of the novel had me on the edge of my seat, and surprisingly, a little teary.  Not a reaction I’ve had from any previous Roberts work.

Fast forward a few years and Elizabeth is now Abigail and as much as she likes to remain invisible she catches the eye of small town police chief, Brooks Gleason.  Brooks was everything she wasn’t- charming, laid back and surrounded by a loving family.  Obviously, they hook up at some point (this is a romance after all) but what does that mean for Abigail’s anonymity?  It’s worth the listen to find out!

I checked this out of the library.

The Kill Room by Jeffery Deaver

The Kill RoomThe Kill Room. Finished audio 5-28-14, rating 4.25/5, thriller, pub. 2013

Lincoln Rhyme series #10 (1 The Bone Collector) (2 The Coffin Dancer) (3 The Empty Chair) (4 The Stone Monkey) (5 The Vanished Man) (6 The Twelfth Card) (7 The Cold Moon) (8 The Broken Window) (9 The Burning Wire)

Unabridged audio 13.5 hours. Read by Jay Snyder, January LaVoy, Edoardo Ballerini

It was a “million-dollar bullet,” a sniper shot delivered from over a mile away. Its victim was no ordinary mark: he was a United States citizen, targeted by the United States government, and assassinated in the Bahamas.
The nation’s most renowned investigator and forensics expert, Lincoln Rhyme, is drafted to investigate. While his partner, Amelia Sachs, traces the victim’s steps in Manhattan, Rhyme leaves the city to pursue the sniper himself. As details of the case start to emerge, the pair discovers that not all is what it seems.
When a deadly, knife-wielding assassin begins systematically eliminating all evidence–including the witnesses–Lincoln’s investigation turns into a chilling battle of wits against a cold-blooded killer.

(from Goodreads)

Quadriplegic forensic specialist Lincoln Rhyme is back with his girlfriend Amelia Sachs along with a few of our favorite friends and this case couldn’t be more timely.  A targeted killing of a US citizen by the US government.  Ring a bell?  Only the victim was a vocal dissident, not a terrorist.  Who would dare (aside from the 24 hour news channels if it suited their targeted audience) stand up to this injustice?  Enter ADA Jance who is ready for battle.  I liked the moral quandary that was explored , even if the guys in charge were the bad guys with very little nuance.

It was great to see Lincoln outside the country, at a tourist location no less!  It gave him a new locale where he might come to harm, difficult for a quadriplegic.  He befriended a local policeman in the Bahamas and I hope  we’ll see more of him in the future.  And I love that Amelia was able to bond with another woman, for too long she’s been lacking a good girlfriend and I see potential in Jance.

I know that no one wants to jump into a series on book 10, BUT I want to say as loud as I can without shouting in all caps, that this is one of the most consistently good series that I have read.  I haven’t rated any of these less than a 4 on Goodreads.  So, start with The Bone Collector (or watch the movie if you want to take a shortcut to the series) and enjoy :)

A note about the audio production: I loved the three readers. Having a real voice for Rhyme and Sachs made the audio so much more enjoyable than if it had just been a single narration. Well done.

I checked this out of the library. 

The Shadow Year by Hannah Richell

The Shadow YearThe Shadow Year. Finished 5-25-14, rating 4.5/5, fiction, 416 pages, pub. 2013

On a sultry summer’s day in 1980, five friends stumble upon an abandoned lakeside cottage hidden deep in the English countryside. For Kat and her friends, it offers an escape; a chance to drop out for a while, with lazy summer days by the lake and intimate winter evenings around the fire. But as the seasons change, tensions begin to rise and when an unexpected visitor appears at their door, nothing will be the same again.

Three decades later, Lila arrives at the same remote cottage. With her marriage in crisis, she finds solace in renovating the tumbledown house. Little by little she wonders about the previous inhabitants. How did they manage in such isolation? Why did they leave in such a hurry, with their belongings still strewn about? Most disturbing of all, why can t she shake the feeling that someone might be watching her?                                                           (from Goodreads)

Kat and her friends are graduating from university, but they aren’t quite ready for the real world yet, so they find an abandoned cottage and decide to live off the land (which you might say is more real world than anything else!). Kat is in love with Simon, the obvious but unnamed leader, and Mac is the loner who can share his survival skills, and Ban and Cara are a couple in love.  It’s a challenge, but one that is working until Kat’s sister shows up.

Lila and her husband have just suffered a miscarriage and the marriage is in trouble.  Her father has recently died and she has mysteriously been left an isolated plot of land with a rundown shack on it.  She decides to take the opportunity to get away from her husband Tom and fix up the small house on her own.

It didn’t take me long to start disliking Kat, but the group dynamics were interesting so I liked reading about them. Lila wasn’t always the most sympathetic character either, but I didn’t dislike her, I just didn’t care as much about her story until later.  It’s obvious that these two stories were connected somehow, but the alternating storylines were told at just the right pace to keep me riveted.  I admit that the connection itself was not that surprising and even the twist at the end was one I sort of saw coming, but it was a fun ride.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one and look forward to reading more from Richell.

I received this book from She Reads.  Go on over and see what other bloggers think about this one. You can take a look at her writing space (I always love this – I’m nosy) here.


T is for There’s To Toms Thoreau with Taylor

The Doll (Vanessa Michael Munroe Series #3)The Doll by Taylor Stevens. Finished 4-15-14, pub. 2013

Unabridged audio read by Hillary Huber.  14 hours.

I read the first two books in this series and really liked them both, and chose to listen to this one on audio and may have liked it even better that way!

Vanessa Michael Munroe is a tough woman in a man’s world.  She makes her living finding information and selling it to businessmen who need it to make a deal.  She speaks over 20 languages which serves her well since she spends most of her time overseas, blending in with the natives wherever she goes, even passing as a man is if serves her well.  If she doesn’t find trouble first, trouble finds her.  She is enjoying some resemblance of a normal life in Dallas when she is drugged and taken to another country and thrown into the web of human trafficking.

Perfect for international thriller fans and those who like kick butt females.   This was my favorite of the series so far, but do think that if you want to read these books they are best read in order (The Informationist) (The Innocent).

Blogging from A to Z

movieThere’s Something About Mary, 1998

One of my ten ten favorite movies.  This raunchy, perfect-for-teen-boys humor is not my thing at all.  I remember feeling embarrassed at some of the crude things I laughed at when I saw it at the theater.  It was not in my comfort zone, and yet at its heart it was a love story between two characters that I loved and was rooting for the whole way.  It made me laugh and it satisfied my goofy heart.

bookTo Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I was reading this classic southern novel when we rescued a kitten and she promptly received the name Scout.  It’s a shame this was Harper Lee’s only book.

authorHenry David Thoreau

Transcendentalist writer, who was introduced to the movement by his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Emerson is even the one who loaned Thoreau Walden Pond, for his two-year experiement.  Open your mind and delve in!

actorTIE! Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise

Tom Hanks is the more likeable author, but when I look at a list of both of the Toms movies I find that it’s Cruise that has been in more of my favorite movies (Collateral, A Few Good Men, Rain Man) and his role as Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder stole the show.


J is for Joaquin Judgement of Jennifer, Joyce & Jane

Blogging from A to Z

Maybe This TimeMaybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie.  Finished 4-10-14, rating 4.5/5, haunted romantic comedy, 342 pages, pub. 2010

Andie Miller wants to marry her fiancé and leave behind everything in her past, especially her ex-husband.  A very distant cousin of his has died and left him as the guardian of two orphans who have driven out three nannies already. He needs a very special person to take care of the situation and he knows Andie can handle anything. 

When Andie meets the two children she quickly realizes things are much worse than she feared. The place is a mess, the children aren’t your average delinquents, and the creepy old house is being run by the worst housekeeper since Mrs. Danvers. What’s worse, Andie’s fiancé thinks this is all a plan by North to get Andie back. 

What follows is a hilarious adventure in exorcism, including a self-doubting parapsychologist, an annoyed medium, her Tarot-card reading mother, an avenging ex-mother-in-law, and, of course, her jealous fiancé. And just when she thinks things couldn’t get more complicated, North shows up on the doorstep making her wonder if maybe this time things could be different between them. 

from Goodreads

Fun, fun, fun!  I loved this romp in a haunted Ohio castle.  Crusie will have you chuckling out loud and leave you with a smile on your face. Andie is a great heroine, easy to like, and the kids are damaged enough to make her show her grit.  And that’s before the ghosts show up.  Lots of great characters, a moody castle, ghosts to sort out, a murder, and sex.  What more could you want?

I love Crusie’s writing.  Her books are always lighthearted and the canvas of characters is always colorful.


authorBrenda Joyce

I consider Joyce my go-to historical romance author.  I loved her Deadly series and consider it one of my all-time favorites (I reviewed the 9 romanctic suspense series here).  When I checked with Goodreads, I have 23 of her 50+ books marked as read.  This makes me very happy because it means I can turn to her for years to come.  A must try for historical romance readers!

bookJane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

This was the first work of literature that I read on my own.  I think I was trying to impress my freshman English teacher during our free reading time in class.  I did reread it sometime after college and I watched a bunch of the movie adaptations (most are pretty good).  I also saw the musical during its short stay on Broadway.  It was excellent and I was sad to see that it closed early.  Anyway, this is all to say that this classic gothic romance has it all: love, death, abuse, madness, money, power, a family made not born into, and finally, peace.

movieJudgement at Nuremberg, 1961

In 1948, four Nazis are tried for war crimes.  You can’t go wrong with this all-star cast-Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Maxmilian Schell, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland.  See the very dramati courtroom scene….


actorJoaquin Phoenix

This was a hard one.  I could have just as easily chosen Hugh Jackman (more easily actually), but if I am honest I find Joaquin so much more interesting.   Maybe it’s his bohemian childhood and the tragedy of witnessing the death of his brother, Phoenix, but he brings such heft to each of the characters he portrays.  I liked him in Walk the Line, and he was my favorite actor in Gladiator, but his latest, Her, I haven’t seen yet because the premise freaks me out a little.  Have you seen it?


Six Years by Harlan Coben

Six YearsSix Years. Finished 12-22-13, rating 4.5/5, thriller, 351 pages, pub. 2013

Six years have passed since Jake Sanders watched Natalie, the love of his life, marry another man. Six years of hiding a broken heart by throwing himself into his career as a college professor. Six years of keeping his promise to leave Natalie alone, and six years of tortured dreams of her life with her new husband, Todd.

But six years haven’t come close to extinguishing his feelings, and when Jake comes across Todd’s obituary, he can’t keep himself away from the funeral. There he gets the glimpse of Todd’s wife he’s hoping for . . . but she is not Natalie. Whoever the mourning widow is, she’s been married to Todd for more than a decade, and with that fact everything Jake thought he knew about the best time of his life – a time he has never gotten over – is turned completely inside out.

As Jake searches for the truth, his picture-perfect memories of Natalie begin to unravel. Mutual friends of the couple either can’t be found or don’t remember Jake. No one has seen Natalie in years. Jake’s search for the woman who broke his heart – and who lied to him – soon puts his very life at risk as it dawns on him that the man he has become may be based on carefully constructed fiction.

from Goodreads

I consider myself a Harlan fan, having happily read every one of his books, first falling in love with Tell No One and then the Myron series.  I find his stand-alones hit or miss but this one was one of the most enjoyable of his that I’ve read in a while. 

I liked the premise, the writing kept me turning pages and I really didn’t want to put this thriller down at all.  Jake finds himself in some crazy situations and like all of Harlan’s main characters, he can take a beating, find more clues, cheat death again, find the answer he was looking for, and still manage to come out relatively unharmed.  Considering I’m still suffering from headaches and some dizziness due to my car accident last week I think I’d like some of their durability!

This was from my personal library and I think it was one of his better standalones.

What Color is Monday: How Autism Changed One Family For the Better by Carrie Cariello

What Color Is Monday?What Color is Monday? Finished 9-25-13, rating 4.5/5, autism, 216 pages, pub. 2013

This book was sent to me months ago, and I put it on my shelf and promptly forgot all about it.  Then I read The Spark and it sparked a memory in my brain that I’d agreed to read another book by a mother of an autistic son.  I appreciated this book so much more than The Spark so I’m glad I read it after or else it might have spoiled the first one completely.

Carrie is a mom to five kids aged 3-9 and wife to a dentist super dad.  In this fast paced and amazingly upbeat book, Carrie warmly and humorously lets the reader have an inside look at life with Jack, her second son, diagnosed with autism at two.  She stresses the positives but doesn’t shy away from the day to day drain it takes on her, her kids, and her marriage.  She is not trying to cure Jack, she is trying to make him the best he can be.  From meltdowns to triumphs this book is such joy to read.  As an only child and mother to an only child I wanted to jump right into her big and loving family.

Today 1 in 88 children and 1 in 54 boys is diagnosed with autism.  This tells one story of autism and I think that if you have anyone in your life who has been diagnosed that you should read this book, it tells the story of so many families so well.  Do it as a favor to the mother and father but also as a favor to yourself.  I think you will find yourself entertained and enlightened.  It’s an easy read that will touch your heart and probably make you want to spend a day with the Cariello clan.

I should mention that this is not a how-to book on treatments or how to navigate therapies after a diagnosis.  This book is for you to read, smile, and nod your head in agreement.  She gets it.

This book was sent to me by the publicist.

Still Life by Louise Penny

Still Life (Armand Gamache Series #1)Still Life. Finished 9-1-13, rating 4.5/5, mystery, 312 pages, pub. 2005

Book 1 in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series.

I made a small 2013 reading list based on other blogger’s best-of lists and whether I had the book or not (here). Still Life was on Staci’s 2012 list and I can see why.  I am really anxious to get my hands on the next one on the series. Thanks for the recommendation, Staci! I’m guessing this will end up one of my favorites of the year too.

Is this is a cozy mystery? Yes, but it’s one with that thing that makes it extra special.  To me, that means it never turns into classic caricatures following the same whodunit script.  The characters were real, even if some still have their secrets.  That can only be a good thing as the series continues.

Chief Inspector Gamache is a well-respected detected up in the Montreal area.  He is caring, thoughtful, patient, insightful, a bit of a rebel, a teacher and he gets the job done.  This was not his first case, he’s been around the block a few times and I loved that it felt like I was meeting a fully developed character, not just the bare bones version that sometimes happens in the first book of a new series.

The people of Three Pines are a varied collection of characters and I was fully invested in Jane  even though she died on the first page because of the way her friends saw her.  They loved her and that made me love her. I’m actually sad that she won’t be around for the next book!

It did take me a little while to get used to the writing style.  My eyes often had to drift back or forward to figure out who was talking, but once I got it I was hooked and I couldn’t put it down until I knew who had killed Jane.  And there were no shortage of suspects, even to the very end.

Highly recommend to every mystery lover.

This was from my own library.

Drift by Jon McGoran, a GMO thriller

DriftDrift. Finished 8-4-13, rating 4.5/5, thriller, 384 pages, pub. 2013

When Philadelphia narcotics detective Doyle Carrick loses his mother and step-father within weeks of each other, he gains a twenty-day suspension for unprofessional behavior and instructions to lay low at the unfamiliar house he’s inherited in rural Pennsylvania.
Feeling restless and out of place, Doyle is surprised to find himself falling for his new neighbor, Nola Watkins, who’s under pressure to sell her organic farm to a large and mysterious development company. He’s more surprised to see high-powered drug dealers driving the small-town roads—dealers his bosses don’t want to hear about.
But when the drug bust Doyle’s been pushing for goes bad and the threats against Nola turn violent, Doyle begins to discover that what’s growing in the farmland around Philadelphia is much deadlier than anything he could have imagined . . .

from Goodreads

I was excited to read this one since having a son with allergies and food sensitivities has led me to be more vigilant about the food he eats.  I am no expert, but I know enough to be worried about the food we buy and put into our bodies without a thought.  An example, I was about to buy a jar of pickles, hoping Gage would like them.  I checked the back and high fructose corn syrup was the second ingredient and Yellow dye was the last.  Sigh.  I did not buy them.  Anyway, the point is that I think this is an important subject.  This book was about that a bit, but it really was about the evils far beyond a dye here or a preservative there, way more than I like to even consider even though I know it’s happening.  GMOs may seem harmless, but most don’t understand enough to be worried.  At least until after they read this book.

Doyle is a cop with more than nine lives since he used at least that many while on this suspension from his job.  His spidey senses knew something was going on in the farming community where his mother and stepmother left him their house.  They also left him a junkie boarder, but that was only one of Doyle’s many problems.  The local sheriff had it out for him as did the local thugs and he did have a funeral to get through, so why not take the time to develop a crush on the organic farmer across the road?  He was a busy man.

This is a first-rate thriller.  Yes, you may have to suspend your disbelief here and there and I wish that Doyle had have had a little more retrospect as the dead bodies piled up at his hands, BUT I was never bored and was always engaged.  I can actually see a series started here although I don’t know if that’s what McGoran has in mind.  I’ve seen a few compare Doyle to Lee Child’s Jack Reacher and while I get the comparison Doyle is still a cop, not a renegade.  But the dead bodies do seem to follow both characters.

Highly recommend.

I am a happy participant in this TLC Book Tour :)  Check out what other bloggers have to say about this eco-thriller. Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy.

Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman, no sophomore slump here

Looking for MeLooking for Me. Finished 5-19-13, rating 4.5/5, 354 pages, ON SALE MAY 28, 2013

I was a little hesitant when author Beth Hoffman offered to send me her new book.  I loved her first, Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt, so much and I’ve also grown to be a fan of Beth Hoffman the person, so I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t like it, if I would be disappointed.  I needn’t have worried since Teddi, while not quite as endearing to me as Cee Cee, is great heroine.

Teddi grew up on a Kentucky farm with her parents, brother, and grandmother.  She was close to her loving father and her nature loving brother, but her relationship with her mother was prickly on a good day.  Especially after Teddi takes off after graduation and her brother goes missing.  Teddi makes a life in Charleston restoring furniture, but she is always drawn home where her brother’s disappearance still haunts her.

Teddi was refreshing.  She knew what she wanted to do from a young age and went after it, and in the process found a new family for herself.  I loved the fact that she was so determined in her goal to own an antique shop and she wasn’t distracted.  She was a successful woman who didn’t lament the lack of a man in her life, instead she lamented the fact that she was so happy without one.  Like most women, the relationship with her mother was a central to her life, and wanting to make her proud was something Teddi was hoping for. That storyline was such a strong one for me and I was rooting for Teddi and her mother.  As for her brother, he was an odd duck and I had a hard time loving him as much as Teddi, but he had a sweet relationship with his sister.

Beth Hoffman knows how to make me feel the southern atmosphere which is no small feat since she grew up not far from where I am in northeast Ohio.  I am especially grateful for her Buckeye roots since that means she always makes a stop here and I will get to see her on June 1st.  I had such a blast meeting her on the last book tour with fellow blogger Bonnie.  Beth is such a warm soul and I think this book showcases that.