Liars’ Paradox by Taylor Stevens

Title: Liars' Paradox, Author: Taylor Stevens Liars’ Paradox. Finished 12-26-18, 4.5/5, thriller, 326 pages, pub. 2018

They live in the shadows, Jack and Jill, feuding twins who can never stop running. From earliest memory they’ve been taught to hide, to hunt, to survive. Their prowess is outdone only by Clare, who has always been mentor first and mother second. She trained them in the art of espionage, tested their skills in weaponry, surveillance, and sabotage, and sharpened their minds with nerve-wracking psychological games. As they grew older they came to question her motives, her methods–and her sanity . . .

Now twenty-six years old, the twins are trying to lead normal lives. But when Clare’s off-the-grid safehouse explodes and she goes missing, they’re forced to believe the unthinkable: Their mother’s paranoid delusions have been real all along. To find her, they’ll need to set aside their differences; to survive, they’ll have to draw on every skill she’s trained them to use. A twisted trail leads from the CIA, to the KGB, to an underground network of global assassins where hunters become the hunted.   from Goodreads

It’s been too long since I’ve read a book by Taylor Stevens.  I loved her Vanessa Michael Monroe series and am happy to report that I loved this start to a new series too.  Jack and Jill are twins with a complicated history and a rocky present, but their obligation to their mother forces them to come together and harness their skills.

I loved the family dynamic and international intrigue, somehow managing to make the Cold War into a love story.  Clare was a driven woman, who we saw through the lens of her kids who had believed her crazy most of their lives.  Jack was the favored child and Jill lashed out in all the ways she could.  When an assassin takes out one and comes for the other two, all hell breaks loose.

I can’t wait to get my eyes on the next one!!

When I received this to review I did a search of the blog to remind me of the first time I met Taylor at Bouchercon in 2012.  I had actually forgotten the Mary Higgin Clark story so I was happy to revisit the post.  Maybe you’ll get a chuckle too 😉

 

On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins

Title: On Second Thought, Author: Kristan HigginsOn Second Thought. Finished 12-14-18, 4.5/5 stars, fiction, 470 pages, pub. 2017

Ainsley O’Leary is so ready to get married—she’s even found the engagement ring her boyfriend has stashed away. What she doesn’t anticipate is being blindsided by a breakup he chronicles in a blog…which (of course) goes viral. Devastated and humiliated, Ainsley turns to her older half sister, Kate, who’s struggling with a sudden loss of her own.

Kate’s always been the poised, self-assured sister, but becoming a newlywed—and a widow—in the space of four months overwhelms her. Though the sisters were never close, she starts to confide in Ainsley, especially when she learns her late husband was keeping a secret from her.

Despite the murky blended-family dynamic that’s always separated them, Ainsley’s and Kate’s heartaches bind their summer together when they come to terms with the inevitable imperfection of relationships and family—and the possibility of one day finding love again.    from Goodreads

I’ve read one series from Kristan Higgins and adored it (Blue Heron series) and thought I’d try one of her mainstream titles.  I loved this one.  Same humor, same tension, and same heart. I’m excited to read more of her standalone titles.

This is a story of two sisters sharing a father and a complicated family history.  Kate, after being labeled a spinster, loses her husband of four months to a freak accident.  Ainsley, who, like Kate, you rolled your eye at for a while, grew on you and by the end you wish you could be more like her.  These two sisters, who were never close, find themselves at a crossroads that they need each other to get through.  I loved them and their strange family dynamics, but more than that I loved the true friendship that developed through circumstance.

There were guys at the ready to help both women, of course.  The boss who noted every minute you were late and Daniel the hot firefighter (no, really, this is his name) were excellent additions and made happy endings more than a possibility.  I loved them both.

I recommend it.  But then I recommend everything she writes 🙂

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris


Title: The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Author: Heather Morris

 

 

 

The Tattooist of Auschwitz.  Finished unabridged audio 12-4-18, 4.5/5 stars, memoir, pub. 2018

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.     from Goodreads

I read Jill’s review in October and thought this would be a great pick for Jason and, it turns out, it was a great read for me as well.  I loved Lale and Geta and the other prisoners we were able to meet.  This book showed the strength of the human spirit in the darkest of circumstances and I recommend it for everyone.  I don’t have time to put more thoughts to the keyboard right now, but I encourage you to go read Jill’s review.  It’s better than anything I could come up 🙂

Eyes on You by Kate White

Title: Eyes on You: A Novel of Suspense, Author: Kate WhiteEyes on You. Finished 11-19-18, rating 4.5/5, mystery,  306 pages, pub. 2014

After losing her on-air job two years ago, television host Robin Trainer has fought her way back and now she’s hotter than ever. With her new show climbing in the ratings and her first book a bestseller, she’s being dubbed a media double threat.

But suddenly, things begin to go wrong. Small incidents at first: a nasty note left in her purse; her photo shredded. But the obnoxious quickly becomes threatening when the foundation the makeup artist uses burns Robin’s face. It wasn’t an accident—someone had deliberately doctored with the product.

An adversary with a dark agenda wants to hurt Robin, and the clues point to someone she works with every day. While she frantically tries to put the pieces together and unmask this hidden foe, it becomes terrifyingly clear that the person responsible isn’t going to stop until Robin loses everything that matters to her . . . including her life.   from Goodreads

First, I need to set the stage.  We are living back home, but only in a few rooms with pretty much no furniture.  We have two mattresses on the floor in the family room and in the kitchen we have one metal outside chair and one basic wooden stool.  The only real option for reading is the kitchen and the seats are only comfortable for about 10 minutes at a time (already I’m standing to type this).  So, reading has not been easy in the past month.  Imagine my surprise when I got sucked into this one and alternated between those two seats until I finished it at 1:30 am!  It was that addicting.

Now for the rundown.  Robin was making a career comeback.  Her book was being released at the same time her on-air TV gig was catching on.  She should have been flying high, but creepy and dangerous things started happening to make her feel threatened and she was afraid to make waves at work.  He sexy co-star offered his body for comfort and for a few hot minutes she resisted.  But good sex can take you only so far and Robin was feeling the pressure.

This was a great who-dun-it with real drama and lots of suspects that never felt like to many.  I learned about the TV business and how cutthroat it can really be.  This read so fast and I recommend it for everyone, but only when you have a few free hours.  I kept telling myself only one more chapter until there were none left.  The writing and the story were excellent.

How To Eat by Thich Nhat Hanh

Title: How to Eat, Author: Thich Nhat HanhHow To Eat.  Finished 9-1-18, rating 4.5/5, mindfulness, 128  pages, pub. 2014

Eating is a chance to return to the present moment.

How to Eat is the second in Parallax’s series of how-to titles by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. These friendly, pocket-sized books contain several delightful illustrations by Jason DeAntonis, and are appropriate for those practicing in any spiritual tradition and all levels of familiarity with mindfulness practice.      from Goodreads

This is part of his mindfulness series, of which I’m a huge fan.  Hanh is a Buddist monk and his books expand the way I see the world and his books will always be on my to-read list.  This is a slight 125 page book on not only how to eat, but how to do so with the meaning.  Mindfulness is about being present in all that you do, so by bringing that to your food, you can change your life for the better.  This is not a diet book, but he does touch upon that we should only be putting the healthiest of foods in our body and that we should not be eating our worries, fear, or anger.  I’ll leave you with a few quotes.

“Enjoy your meal. Stop thinking and be here fully, body and mind.” page 32

“With each meal, we make choices that help or harm the planet.” page 59

“If we feel empty, we don’t need to go to the refrigerator to take things out to eat.  When you eat like that it’s because there is a feeling of emptiness, loneliness, or depression inside.  The moments of our daily lives can be filled with joy and meaningful activities.  Our community includes our family and friends and our connection to other living beings.  They are there to help us get out of these feelings.  We are not alone.  Sharing a meal together is not just to sustain our bodies and celebrate life’s wonders, but also to experience freedom, joy, and the happiness of being in a harmonious community during the whole time of eating.”  page 77

“May we find ways to live more simply in order to have more time and energy to change the system of injustice that exists in the world.”  page 113

The Night Bookmobile, Night Shift, Herding Cats – 3 graphic books worth reading

Title: The Night Bookmobile, Author: Audrey NiffeneggerThe Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger. Finished 9-28-18, rating 4/5, graphic short story, 40 pages, pub. 2010

First serialised in the Guardian, The Night Bookmobile tells the story of a young woman who one night encounters a mysterious disappearing mobile library that happens to stock every book she has ever read. Seeing her history and her most intimate self in this library, she embarks on a search for the bookmobile. Over time, her search turns into an obsession as she longs to be reunited with her own collection and her memories.  from Goodreads

I loved this sad, odd little tale of a woman who loves her books.  One night she discovers a bookmobile on a darkened street and walks in to discover everything she’s ever read in her life.  Dazzled and amazed she dedicates her life to reading more books to fill the bookmobile and searching for the magical library on wheels.  What a fun concept!  It was too short and the illustrations were just okay, but I loved it.  Just the right mix of fairy tale and cautionary tale.


Title: Night Shift, Author: Debi GlioriNight Shift by Debi Gliori. Finished 9-28-18, rating 4.5/5, graphic book about depression, 32 pages, pub. 2017

With stunning black and white illustration and deceptively simple text, author and illustrator Debi Gliori examines how depression affects one’s whole outlook upon life, and shows that there can be an escape – it may not be easy to find, but it is there. Drawn from Debi’s own experiences and with a moving testimony at the end of the book explaining how depression has affected her and how she continues to cope, Debi hopes that by sharing her own experience she can help others who suffer from depression, and to find that subtle shift that will show the way out.    from Goodreads

I was so moved by this powerful book about depression.  In only 32 pages of images I felt the crushing weight of depression.  I understood it in a new way.  This is a must read for anyone who loves someone who is suffering or for those who feel alone and don’t know where to turn.


Title: Herding Cats: A Sarah's Scribbles Collection, Author: Sarah AndersenHerding Cats by Sarah Anderson. Finished 9-28-18, 4/5 stars, graphic nonfiction, 108 pages, pub. 2018

With characteristic wit and charm, Sarah Andersen’s third collection of comics and illustrated personal essays offers a survival guide for frantic modern life: from the importance of avoiding morning people, to Internet troll defense 101, to the not-so-life-changing futility of tidying up. But when all else fails and the world around you is collapsing, make a hot chocolate, count the days until Halloween, and snuggle up next to your furry beacon of hope.    from Goodreads

This the third collection, but I’m not familiar with the author or the first two and this book was so quirky and fresh that I had a smile on my face the whole time.  Lots of the reviews on Goodreads include some of the panels and you should definitely take a look.  I plan on checking out her earlier books.

Our Town by Thornton Wilder

Title: Our Town, Author: Thornton Wilder

Our Town. Finished 9-17-18, 4.5/5 stars, classic play, 181 pages, pub. 1938

Our Town was first produced and published in 1938 to wide acclaim. This Pulitzer Prize-winning drama of life in the small village of Grover’s Corners, an allegorical representation of all life, has become a classic. It is Thornton Wilder’s most renowned and most frequently performed play.     from Goodreads

It’s Grover’s Corner, New Hampshire (population 2,642), early 20th century, and the Stage Manager leads us (the audience) through the years.  We follow two families, the Gibbs and the Webbs as the doctor and the newspaperman and their families lead their lives in the small New England town.  The three acts, years apart, see Emily as a child, a teen and a young bride.

I had forgotten how much fun it can be to read a play. First performed in 1938 on a stage devoid of props this play is simplicity at its deepest. The lives of the townspeople weren’t particularly interesting which made the ending such a punch in the gut (of the gentle and not hurtful variety) for me.  That third act was brilliant.  I loved it.

“That’s what it was like to be alive. To move about in a cloud of ignorance; to go up and down trampling on the feelings of those…of those about you. To spend and waste time as though you had a million years. To be always at the mercy of one self-centered passion, or another. Now you know- that’s the happy existence you wanted to go back to. Ignorance and blindness.”

This won the Pulitzer Prize and  my 23rd selection for the Classics Club and I have until January 1, 2020 to get to 50.

The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud by Ben Sherwood (otherwise known as Charlie St. Cloud)

Title: Charlie St. Cloud, Author: Ben SherwoodCharlie St. Cloud. Finished 4-28-18, 4.25/5, fiction, 273 pages, pub. 2004

The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud tells the haunting story of a young man who narrowly survives a terrible car wreck that kills his little brother. Years later, the brothers’ bond remains so strong that it transcends the normal boundaries separating life and death. Charlie St. Cloud lives in a snug New England fishing village. By day he tends the lawns and monuments of the ancient cemetery where his younger brother, Sam, is buried. Graced with an extraordinary gift after surviving the accident, he can still see, talk, and even play catch with Sam’s spirit. But townsfolk whisper that Charlie has never recovered from his loss.  from Goodreads

Charlie and his brother are besties and when Sam is killed and Charlie is spared, both lives are lost.  Fast forward a few years and Charlie works at the local graveyard as its caretaker and can see and talk to the spirits of dead people who are stuck in between.  Sam is one of those spirits.  Charlie, because of a promise, plays catch with Sam every day at sunset and the boys continue to lean on their bond.  But then comes along this girl and everything changes.  I don’t want to spoil too much by saying more, but graveyards and spirits and love are some of my favorite things 🙂

This was a fun readathon book, sentimental, romantic and just the right length.  I read Sherwood’s first book, The Man Who Ate the 747 and loved it. It was quirky and endearing.  When I saw the trailer for the movie when it came out years ago I somehow missed that it was written by Sherwood.  I didn’t like this quite as much as 747, but it did have much of the same magic.

I watched the movie today and will compare the two in a few days, but if you only saw the movie I can’t stress enough that you should read the book.

 

 

Knots & Crosses by Ian Rankin

Title: Knots and Crosses (Inspector John Rebus Series #1), Author: Ian Rankin

Knots & Crosses. Finished 3-29-18, rating 4.25/5, mystery, 256 pages, pub. 1987

Detective John Rebus: His city is being terrorized by a baffling series of murders…and he’s tied to a maniac by an invisible knot of blood. Once John Rebus served in Britain’s elite SAS. Now he’s an Edinburgh cop who hides from his memories, misses promotions and ignores a series of crank letters. But as the ghoulish killings mount and the tabloid headlines scream, Rebus cannot stop the feverish shrieks from within his own mind. Because he isn’t just one cop trying to catch a killer, he’s the man who’s got all the pieces to the puzzle…    from Goodreads

Inspector Rebus series #1

John Rebus is a bit of a closed off mess.  He’s divorced, has an almost non-existent relationship with his brother and no friends outside of those he works with at the police station.  Young girls are getting kidnapped and killed all across Edinburgh and Rebus is assigned to the team to investigate.  This mystery was more character driven than in your face drama on every page and I liked that.

I loved the Scotland setting and the variety of well drawn characters.  Rebus came out of the shell of his past in a way that kept me reading.  I loved the supporting cast and how they revolved around Rebus.  I was worried about how much they all seemed to drink, but maybe they can handle more liquor in Scotland?

I thought this was a great start to a well-loved detective series.  I do plan on continuing as time allows and since this only took me two days to read I think I could read quite a few this year alone!

 

The Myth of You and Me by Leah Stewart

Title: The Myth of You and Me, Author: Leah StewartThe Myth of Me & You.  Finished 3-26-18, 4.25/5 stars, fiction, 312 pages, pub. 2005

The Myth of You and Me captures the intensity of a friendship as well as the real sense of loss that lingers after the end of one. Searingly honest and beautiful, it is a celebration and portrait of a friendship that will appeal to anyone who still feels the absence of that first true friend.  from Goodreads

Sonia shrugs. “You know. She’s not that quirky. She likes mainstream movies. Romance. Action-adventure. She’s not into inner turmoil. She’s one of the most practical people I’ve ever met. It’s like, life is a job. She’s a realist.”

For some reason I felt slightly affronted. I say, “I’m a realist.”

Sonia laughs. “You’re not a realist,” she says. “You’re a dreamer who doesn’t believe in the dream.”   Chapter 17

There’s nothing quite like those first real friendships when you’re young.  Everything is new as you discover the way the world works together, or maybe you don’t quite figure it out but you try and it’s okay because you’ve got each other.  Cameron and Sonia were each other’s touchstone from the  time they met when they were 14.  Through high school and college the two, seeming opposites, stuck together even though they both loved the same boy.  What could possibly tear them apart?  Fast forward a few years and they are living completely different lives, in different states without a word between them until Cameron receives a letter from Sonia and her boss comes up with a plan to reconnect the two.

I loved this book.  Cameron was a bit of a tough nut to crack and as the protagonist in a first person story her distance became the lens from which you saw everything, past and present.  Cameron’s journey to find Sonia was filled with many moments that seemed unrealistic, but as a whole it was satisfying.  I was rooting for them and for a happy ending for Cameron, which I feared couldn’t happen because I wasn’t sure that she wanted to be happy.

I met the author at a book talk at my library back in 2011.  I loved the book she was on tour for, so I’m not sure why I waited so long to read this one.  Husband and Wife really spoke to me as a new mother and this one left me missing my childhood friends and wanting to reach out to them.

I just love this cover, don’t you?